Who the F*&K?!
Patrick Ewing and Ewing Athletics!
To any sports fan and/or true New Yorker - Ewing is basketball royalty. This is evidently legitimised with his No.33 jersey up in the rafters at the iconic Madison Square Garden along side Knicks greats such as Frazier, Reed and Monroe. A truly loved and appreciated face in what is known as America's 'greatest city', adopted as one of their own. Looking like he could have been Keith Sweat’s 7ft tall badass brother, and boy did he really have those defenders 'twisted', there was really only one career path for this goliath of a human, his resume speaks for itself.
What he has achieved is quite remarkable in comparison to others that have blessed the basketball hardwood. He is an NBA Hall of Famer, 11 time All-Star participant, former Rookie of the Year and ranked in the top 50 greatest NBA players of all time. If there’s an accolade out there, this guy has pretty much got it all, apart from not winning that elusive world championship ring – we still remember that missed layup. Sorry Knicks fans for bringing that up, I know it still hurts! Forgive me.
Ewing 33 in Maddison Square Garden
However despite the miss, the culture still has the utmost love for Ewing because the man was a true competitor and paid his dues to the city of New York during a time where god like figures such as Michael Jordan and Hakeem Olujawon also took centre stage. Ewing cemented his place amongst the elite via his hard work and determination as well as unquestionable monstrous talent; he even got to be in the cast of the 'fan favourite' original Space Jam movie – I always loved that film!
If you ask an old-head, the name Ewing is synonymous with the edgy and vibrant 90's era of New Jack City, Wesley Snipes, Spike Lee, Biggie Smalls, Pac, Boyz 2 Men and the list goes on. An era where fashion, music and sports defined the lifestyle, especially in the United States.
Ewing powering Dunk over LA Lakers as Magic Johnson looks on helplessly
However, Ewing was also known for something quite historic and even more so impressive, the man will also go down as one of the pioneers of the sneaker industry, which we have seen grow from strength to strength over the years and has paved the way for many in the game today to follow suit.
Towards the end of the 80s era, Ewing had made his name in the NBA as what journalistic legend Stephen A. Smith would normally say “ That’s a baaaaadd man right there”. Ewing was one of the most influential faces of the NBA during this era and was the first professional ball player to have a majority stake in his own company, Ewing Athletics. That’s right, this was no collaboration with sport powerhouses Nike or Adidas that the more current legends; Kobe Bryant, Lebron James and James Harden have benefitted from, but this man was that good, he had his own brand. Now that’s impressive, “more than just an athlete eh”…where have I heard that before?
With his working relationship with super agent David Falk – they created a new age of sportswear with a lot of focus in particular to sneakers. The concept you ask? – That being a tall ass motherf****r who can dunk a ball pretty much standing was very cool indeed and should be embraced. Combining this message along with the marketing base that is New York City (just like Jordan had Chicago) and the sheer colossal presence Ewing was on the court - the business was only going to thrive. Remember this was an age before social media – so the size of your city’s fanbase, number of media outlets, celebrities and of course money invested in, had substantial influence over brand awareness and popularity.
Ewing 'Image' Red '94 Rejuvenated
Competing with the likes of Jordan brand, which was also extremely popular at the time, Ewing Athletics was holding its own in the sneaker world boasting an array of celebrities all rocking the kicks. From Tupac Shakur to Joe Pesci, the following was very spread out and in the 80s-90s, anyone who was anyone wanted a pair of these iconic sneakers. If you wanted to be like MJ, you wore Air Jordans, but if you wanted to be like Pat then you wore Ewing Athletics and boy did people want to be like Big Pat. So much so that the launch of the 33Hi was such a big hit in 1990, that Ewing Athletics accumulated almost $100 million in sales.
Pat Ewing vs Miami Heat - One for the Cameras
“If you took 1990 dollars and translated them to 2015, he’d have outsold LeBron and Kobe combined.” – Agent David Falk.
The best part was that the sneakers were not as pricey in comparison to its rival. Prices kicked off at $49 whereas Air Jordans started at around $65 in 1990. The sneakers had numerous different types of designs and colourways, known for its chunky frame and high cut.
PE 33 Hi White/Black/Red
More than Kobe and Lebron? Damnn! They looked sick and they were relatively cheap in comparison to it competitors. That’s pretty dope! I guess not everyone only wanted “to be like Mike” as the world tends to make out – well at least not in New York anyway. No offence to MJ, you still the GOAT!
Michael Jordan & Patrick Ewing Faceoff
Despite the success of the brand that also diverged itself out into sporting apparel, due to issues with distributer Next Sports and an expensive law suit that followed, the company shutdown in 1996 and Ewing went on to wear Nikes for the remainder of his career. However, following its abrupt end; the sneakers soon became regarded as a lucrative collector’s item. Fast-forward 16 years to 2012 - Ewing and Falk have rejuvenated the brand in order to recreate the impact it had on fans and sneaker enthusiasts alike. With admirers such as ASAP Rocky, 2 Chainz, Fabolous and Trinidad James to name a few, seen wearing these works of art in the modern day, the sneakers have been accepted by younger society, and are now sold in over 30 countries.
Trinidad James in 33 Hi “St Patricks Day”
Rick Ross in Rick Ross x 33 Hi "MMG"
A$AP Rocky in 33 Hi on Stage
I think the best way to capture who the f*ck Patrick Ewing was especially in terms of the sneaker game is one of my favourite lines from rap icon Jay Z - “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man!” Ain't that the truth!
PE rejuvenated in the modern day
Words by Ali Walji
Instagram - aliwalji17