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On This Date in Sports December 20, 1997: Down Goes Patrick

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

During a 98-78 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks at the Bradley Center, Patrick Ewing of the New York Knicks falls awkwardly and lands on his wrist. The fall leads to Ewing severely injuring his right wrist, suffering a fracture, a dislocation, and torn ligaments that would cause him to miss the rest of the regular season. Patrick Ewing would return in the playoffs but was never quite the same player again.

Though the New York Knicks had won an NBA Championship during Patrick Ewing’s tenure, the team was consistently one of the best in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks made it at least into the second round of the playoffs nearly every year of his career, making it all the way to Game 7 of the NBA Finals in 1994 when they lost a heartbreaker to the Houston Rockets.

Patrick Ewing was born on August 5, 1962, in Kingston, Jamaica. After moving to the United States, Ewing became a basketball star in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was heavily recruited before choosing Georgetown. At Georgetown, Patrick Ewing became one of the most dominant players in NCAA history, leading the Hoyas to one championship in three finals appearances. After college, Ewing was the top pick in the NBA draft, selected by the New York Knicks, who won the first-ever draft lottery in 1985.

In the NBA, Patrick Ewing became an instant All-Star, winning Rookie of the Year in 1986. In 1997 Ewing was named one of the 50 greatest players on the NBA’s 50th Anniversary Team. Heading into the 1997/98 season, the Knicks were once again expected to contend for the Eastern Conference Championship. Heading into a Saturday Night game in Milwaukee, the Knicks were off to a 15-10 start in their first 25 games. With 24.9 seconds left in the first half, Patrick Ewing fell awkwardly trying to catch a lob pass from Charlie Ward. While in the air, Ewing was he was clipped by Bucks Center Andrew Lang, who knocked him off balance. While falling backward, Ewing tried to catch his fall, and his entire weight came down on his wrist, causing the injury.

Without Patrick Ewing the rest of the way, the Knicks struggled to get into the playoffs, grabbing the seventh seed with a record of 43-39. As Ewing rehabbed his injury, the Knicks faced the Atlantic Division Champion Miami Heats in the first round, winning the best-of-five series in five games to avenge their second-round loss a year earlier. Ewing would return in the second round against the Indiana Pacers, but the Knicks star was clearly still feeling the effects of the injury as New York lost to the Pacers four games to one.

Patrick Ewing was never the same after the injury, as he never again played in the All-Star game. The Knicks would trade Ewing following the 2000 season, as he played single seasons with the Seattle Supersonics and Orlando Magic before retiring in 2002.