Patrick Ewing had an emotional end to his ’99 NBA season when an Achilles injury kept him from making it onto the court. That game went down in history as a toss-up, with Knicks fans left wondering whether Ewing would have been the deciding factor in a finals win.
Instead, Ewing was left on the sidelines, with an emotional outing as his teammates – the Knicks – battled on the basketball court against the San Antonio Spurs. Marcus Camby, Chris Dudley, Herb Williams, and Larry Johnson weren’t enough on their own to take on the power couple, Tim Duncan, and David Robinson. The Spurs won four out of the five games, leaving the Knicks to wallow in that memory for years.
Patrick Ewing opened up about those dreaded finals games in The New York Post’s podcast “Big Apple Buckets.” The basketball All-Star described breaking down on the team bus after his injury forced him out of the finals. For five games he watched his team get torn to shreds, game after game until he couldn’t take it anymore.
“It definitely would have been a tougher series for them [had I not been injured],” Ewing remarked. “Marcus and myself would have been a formidable duo to go against both Tim and David, but that was tough because to have to sit there and listen to all the noise that those fans were talking about, it was hard to take. I actually broke down.”
He escaped to the team bus where he let it out – the frustration at losing it all – and he “didn’t want anybody to see” him. Ewing continued, saying “I went on the team bus and I broke down because I wasn’t able to play in it and we were losing.”
Losing is an understatement. Though the scores were close, the Knicks were crushed in four of the games, leaving only one game in which the team barely scraped by with a win. With Patrick Ewing to dominate on the court, who knows what would have happened.
If Ewing had played and won – many big ifs – it would have been his first (and only) championship win. Instead, he retired without a finals trophy, all because of a partial tear in his Achilles’ tendon.
Despite the unlucky ’99 finals, Ewing went down as a basketball hero, winning Olympic gold medals in 1984 and 1992 as a part of the United States men’s Olympic basketball team. He was selected as one of the 50 greatest NBA players in history, marking his name on the court as a legend.