The relationship between basketball and New York is iconic. Basketball is deeply rooted in New York, from legendary playgrounds to legendary NBA players who made the mecca of Madison Square Garden. The prominent market of New York offers players many opportunities outside of the court. Still, it also brings higher expectations for their on-court performances, and not all the players can handle that. The prolonged drought of high-level competitive playoff basketball made the fans in NY lose their patience, given that the Knicks won their last title in 1973. So it feels that wearing the Knicks jersey is more demanding than ever.
The last time the Knicks were in a serious championship contention was for the most of the 90s, but were never able to get over the hump. They got very close twice; first in 1994, losing the Finals to Hakeem Olajuwon’s Houston Rockets and then again in 1999, but Tim Duncan’s Spurs were too much to handle. They also lost to Reggie Miller’s Indiana Pacers twice in the conference semifinals and once in the conference finals, and Michael Jordan’s Bulls eliminated them from the playoffs four times. The era of historically great teams led by all-time great players was too much for the Knicks, prolonging the title wait for their fans.
Patrick Ewing led the 90s Knicks, a Hall of Famer, and is one of the best players never to win the NBA title. According to Ewing’s former teammate Charles Oakley, who has been banned from the Garden since his arrest in 2017, Big Pat is the reason the Knicks weren’t more successful during the decade. Oakley made an appearance on CBS Sports Radio’s “The DA Show” and talked about Ewing holding the Knicks back.
“He could never put us on his back like he should have because every adversity he ducked away from,” Oakley said. Oakley didn’t criticize Ewing’s basketball abilities, because he knows how great of the individual player Ewing was. He spoke about how he expected more vocal leadership from the player of Ewing’s caliber.
“Every leader, every superstar in this league, if you go through adversity and you’re trying to duck and dodge, and you’re in the biggest city, it’s going to damper your team. Michael Jordan wasn’t like that at first, but he installed it in his game. He’s seen that if he’s going to be getting 30 shots, 30 points, that he’s got to put his team on his back. And Patrick could never put us on his back like he should have.”
Charles Oakley, “The DA Show”
Oakley said that Ewing never stood up for his teammates and that he was unwilling to be accountable with the media and say things to coaches and officials that as the leader and the best player of the team, he had the credit to say. Oakley also called Ewing “high maintenance” and said that the team had to make sure that he was happy, which resulted in lousy team chemistry.
“You got to be special to play with Patrick. You had to do so much out of your ordinary just to be on the team, and that hurt us sometimes. As a team, we’re supposed to be close and together. It wasn’t that. We had to make sure he was happy. He didn’t care if we were happy or not. That’s a sad situation, and I see why the Knicks won’t give him a job. He treated them bad – inside out. Chris [Childs] will tell you. He was tough to play with, but he was no problem to me because I understand. ‘Mase’ [Anthony Mason] had a problem with it because Mase always hollered and cussed at him.”
Charles Oakley, “The DA Show”
Oakley, who isn’t shy of publicly criticizing the Knicks organization and people around it has shown bitterness toward his former team, and now towards one of his former teammates. There’s no question that Ewing was a fantastic player and that he led the team by putting up great numbers night in and night out. He was known for being a quiet guy, and that doesn’t sit well with Oakley, who continues with his rants against the Knicks.