The following article was contributed by Gary Levine. A self-described diehard and obsessed Knick fan, he recalls the strange and wild night he witnessed Patrick Ewing’s jersey retired on February 28, 2003. You can follow him on Twitter @gary_levine.
First some background – I was born in 1989, which means that I spent my young childhood watching Patrick Ewing. While I don’t remember the Rockets championship series that well and I was very young for most of his Knicks career, I still grew up with Patrick Ewing being THE New York Knick.
Back to my story – I can’t remember if this was the tail end of Patrick’s playing days, or if he was already retired, but I will never forget the noise of that halftime ceremony.
“PA-TRICK EWING” rained down through the Garden crowd sending chills through my body. This chant was a staple of the ’90s and the entire crowd was showing their appreciation for Ewing. Now this ceremony alone should’ve made for a great night, but it wasn’t till the fourth quarter that this game became a game I’d never forget.
I attended the game with one of my family’s friend’s family. It was a 13-year old me, their dad, and his two daughters (one was 13 and the other was 9 at the time). As the fourth quarter was winding down, their dad told us that he was going to bring the car to the front of the Garden to make leaving the stadium easier.
(Side note: I HATE the idea of “leaving early to beat traffic” in any sporting event. The 15 minutes of traffic that you save is never worth possibly missing a magical sports ending, but I was 13 at the time and went to the game with their family, so I had no choice in the matter).
Ed. Note: I concur. That’s lazy fandom. But back to Gary’s story…
Well, of course, the Knicks ended up taking the game to overtime and put us (three kids under 13, including two girls) in a weird situation regarding if we should leave or not. I finally gave in to leaving and about midway through the first OT we left our seats venturing out into NYC to find their dad.
Ah, being a 13-year old kid trying to work my way around NYC streets and find a random car was an interesting experience.
So, we left the Garden at the side entrance and came out to a completely different landscape than what we’ve ever seen before. We now were lost in New York City. My first instinct was that I needed to borrow a cell phone, since 13-year olds did not have cell phones 10 years ago, and call someone’s parents. We were 3 children walking around the streets asking to borrow a cell phone for a minute and got rejected by anyone that we asked.
Welcome to NYC.
Next step: find the correct entrance to the Garden. Now the story gets even more interesting because on my way around the Garden we somehow bumped into Antonio McDyess. Note that by this point the youngest girl I was with is already crying and they’re both getting pretty panicky. Of course, I completely ignore these emotions and my first instinct is to walk over to McDyess, ask for an autograph, and which direction is the front of the Garden. He doesn’t really say anything back to me, but does sign my Patrick Ewing 33 Banner and points one way that we should go.
We finally make it to the front of the Garden and now we’re just standing on the sidewalk hoping that their dad will come pick us up. While waiting, I somehow spot his car in the middle of traffic and sprint into the street, bang on his window, and finally we are reunited.
When we get into the car and put on the radio to hear who won the game, we find out that the game is still going and is in 2OT. Despite both girls still being emotional from wandering around lost for a while, I push hard to get their dad to park and go back into the stadium. We end up finding a parking spot, the Garden allows us back in to the stadium and we get to sit and enjoy the Knicks win in 2OT.
The combination of Patrick Ewing jersey’s retirement, getting lost in Manhattan, randomly bumping into Antonio McDyess, and then making it back into the stadium to watch the Knicks win in 2OT is a memory that I will never forget.
Ed. Note: Highlights from that game – Tracy McGrady with 34 points, 13 assists, and 8 rebounds; Drew Gooden with 20 points and 18 rebounds; Latrell Sprewell with a triple double of 28 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists plus 5 steals; and Clarence Weatherspoon going for 18 points and 24 rebounds!