Thursday, August 5, 2010

Happy Birthday Big Fella

It was 48 years ago today that Patrick Aloysius was born to Dorothy and Carl Ewing in Kingston, Jamaica. As a young boy he took to cricket and soccer, where played in the net. First his mother and later his father emigrated to the United States when he was 11 years old. They settled in Cambridge.

At this point, Patrick had yet to touch a basketball. Yet within 10 years he had taken his high school team to the state championship and his college team to the national championship. At Georgetown, he would be the most dominant collegiate player in the country, leading the Hoyas to the Final Four three times. He won a Gold Medal in 1984. In 1985, he was drafted by the Knicks. By 1988, he was my hero. In 1992, he won another Gold Medal as the starting center of the "Dream Team" In 1997, he was announced as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA history. Through it all he played with fire and dignity, whether on mediocre teams or when being targeted by the media for failing to deliver on the promises they made for him when he arrived in the Big Apple. Today he is an assistant coach of the Orlando Magic and still busts his tail by all accounts as he tutors Dwight Howard and works toward a head coaching gig.

Whereas most athletes are, to borrow from a contemporary of Patrick's, not meant to be role models, I'd like to think that the Big Fella's integrity and effort, the way that he never left any game having given anything less than his best effort, did make me a better person. Watching him vie for a title year after year, as the injuries mounted and the naysayers gathered taught me that there are rewards to be gotten and pride to be taken from the manner in which one makes their journey regardless of the final destination.

Happy Birthday to you, Big Fella.