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Q&A: Patrick Ewing

Dream Team practices, Olympic sneakers, and the new-look Warriors

Getty Images
Getty Images

Patrick Ewing founded Ewing Athletics, his own line of branded basketball shoes, in 1989, after leaving Adidas. It released several iconic models — most notably the 33-Hi and the Eclipse, the sneaker that Ewing wore while murking the world with the Dream Team in 1992 — before folding in 1996. The company was relaunched in 2012. Last month, Ewing Athletics held an event in Manhattan’s Lower East Side to announce the reissue of the 1992 Ewing Eclipse Olympics shoe. Patrick Ewing was in attendance, and I spoke to him there.

Are there any favorite memories from the Olympics?

Well, you know, that’s the Dream Team. So we had some great memories. We kicked butts, took names. It was just a great time. The practices were more fun than the games. No one could beat us. We could only beat ourselves. You had me going against David [Robinson]; Michael [Jordan] going against Magic [Johnson] or Clyde [Drexler]. We pushed ourselves, and made ourselves better just by the fact that we were playing against each other every day.

And now you work for Mike [Ewing is the associate head coach of the Charlotte Hornets]. What’s that like?

It’s great. He’s not around day to day, but I talk with him from time to time. He’s a great owner. Obviously, he knows the game of basketball. He gives his opinion when needed. Or, when he feels that it’s needed. He’s a great owner.

What’s it like seeing your Olympic shoes getting this kind of appreciation years later?

I feel great. Not only that people still respect what I did, but also that David [Goldberg, of Ewing Athletics] put the shoes in the right places and helped to grow it.

What do you think it is about the Eclipse that draws people to it?

It’s an iconic shoe, and the Dream Team was an iconic team. That team, those players, were plastered all over the world. People were able to see me performing in it, and see the level of success that we had in that era, in those games, and those Olympics.

You almost went to the Warriors (in 1991), before the Knicks brought in Pat Riley. What do you think of Kevin Durant joining them?

That’s his decision. That’s what free agency is all about. He chose to go to a place where he could possibly win a title. He would’ve gotten the most money out of OKC, but he chose to go somewhere else. No one knows how it’s going to turn out. Or if they will win a championship again. But that’s a great team. They have the talent to stack up with the great Lakers teams, the great Celtics teams, with all these dominant players.

I always wished the Knicks could’ve gotten you just any other guy who could reliably score 20 a game when you were not 35!

[Laughs.]

Do you ever imagine what it would be like if you were playing today?

I think if I played today, it wouldn’t have been any different. I’d still be able to dominate the way I dominated my era. Probably even more. Because in my era, there were a lot more dominant bigs than there are now. The fact that I could score, rebound, play defense, block shots … would be a great asset to any team.

You had that corner 3 against the Celtics too!

[Laughs.] No, no, I’m not a 3-point shooter. I hit a few of them. Throughout my career I think I might have hit, maybe, 20. [Editor’s note: 19.] But I know where my bread was buttered. I was inside-out to about 17 feet. That’s it.

How much space would you have had down low if you had Steph spacing the floor in the mid-’90s?

So much.

One of the the criticisms you hear is players today are too friendly with each other. Yet I remember you used to work out with Alonzo Mourning every summer. And when the season rolled around, you guys were trying to kill each other.

When we played — me, Zo, Dikembe, Michael, whoever — we might have been friends off the court, but once we stepped on the court, it was all about trying to dominate that person. Trying to win. I’m not saying that these guys today aren’t trying to do the same thing. But, because of the AAU-type of atmosphere, everybody’s always traveling together, moving from city to city to join particular teams. There’s [more opportunities to become friendly] than back when I played.

Could any of the post–Dream Team Olympic teams, including this one, have, not taken you guys, but given you a game at least?

No. No.

None of them could come close?

Maybe they could come close, but none of them could beat us.

Seven-game series, could they get a game?

They’d get a win. That’s it.