Former New York Knicks forward Charles Oakley recently took a dig at Knicks legend and former teammate Patrick Ewing. According to Oakley, Ewing “ducked adversity” and was one of the main reasons why New York was not able to achieve ultimate success in the 1990s.
Jeff Van Gundy, a former Knicks coach, could not help but praise Ewing and remind people how good he was. In his mind, Ewing was absolutely a guy they could count on when it mattered most. While it’s unclear if Van Gundy was directly responding to Oakley’s criticism, his message about Ewing comes across loud and clear:
“I think we have amnesia, sometimes, as Knick people, just to how good Ewing was and how well he played,” Van Gundy recently claimed on Mad Dog Sports Radio, via Ian Begley of SNY. “If you’re going to be compared to Jordan, then everybody’s going to come up short. But if you’re compared to a level of greatness?
“I went back and watched the games and looked at the stats because it was intriguing to me, from other people’s recollection, ‘I was like, this guy is unbelievable.’ Even back then, how people try to portray Patrick as not coming through in the clutch. And I’m like, ‘Hold on, I was there at every game. I remember this guy carrying us on a nightly basis.'”
Van Gundy is practically discrediting Oakley’s statement here, and the former Knicks coach did not stop there:
“He didn’t just come through once in a while where you would remember it. He was coming through with big games all of the time and they sort of start fading from your memory,” the former coach added. “And it’s been great to sort of go back and look, as people have talked about these series, because when I look and I watch (on YouTube), and then I look at the box scores, this guy absolutely carried us. We had a lot of other really good players, but this guy? Man. We were so blessed to have a Ewing in his prime.”
This could be a veiled shot at Oakley right there, implying that he was one of the “really good players,” but at the same time declaring that he — or anybody else on the team for that matter — was not at the same level as the great Patrick Ewing.
Ewing’s Knicks consistently fell short against the Chicago Bulls in the playoffs. They also lost twice in the NBA Finals, though Ewing didn’t play in the 1999 NBA Finals because of an Achilles injury. It’s tough to blame Ewing too much given his production and the level of competition he was facing.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to note that Ewing didn’t play in the 1999 NBA Finals due to injury.