23 Sep On screen for playoffs, the friendship and the rivalry of Alonzo Mourning and Patrick Ewing By MANNY NAVARRO
Miami Heat fans haven’t forgotten about the on-court rivalry between Alonzo Mourning and Patrick Ewing.
How could they? From 1997 to 2000, the Heat and Knicks met in either the first or second round of the playoffs and waged fierce battles that always went the distance to a winner-take-all final game. Mourning and Ewing were at the center of those classic playoff tussles.
Sixteen years later, their teams are meeting in the playoffs again. Ewing, 53 and retired since 2003, is the associate head coach of the Charlotte Hornets. Mourning, 46 and retired since 2008, is the vice president for player programs with the Heat.
That’s not the newsworthy part of all this. After all, the Heat swept Charlotte and Ewing from the playoffs two years ago.
What’s very clear is that there’s a deep fondness and admiration and real friendship between those two guys. Jon Weinbach, director of the documentary
What is noteworthy? On Thursday, SI Films released a 33-minute documentary entitled Patrick & Zo, a unique look at the kinship and rivalry shared by the former Georgetown stars and Hall of Famers. In it, we get to see Mourning and Ewing interact in ways we really hadn’t before.
“What’s very clear is that there’s a deep fondness and admiration and real friendship between those two guys,” said director Jon Weinbach, who grew up a Lakers fan in Los Angeles and was entertained by the heated rivalry between the Heat and the Knicks when he lived in New York. “Sometimes you hear stories and it can be a little more B.S. and public relations than it is authentic. People always talked about these two guys being joined at the hip. It’s really true. It’s really unprecedented.
“I mean [Larry] Bird and Magic [Johnson] hated each other as competitors and then became friends in spite of it through commercials and then gained this grudging respect and then it became a friendship. Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain — everybody assumed they hated each other, but they actually were real friends. But again what brought them together was the rivalry. In the case of Alonzo and Patrick, they had this thing before their teams became rivals.”
The film, which delves into the childhoods of both Mourning and Ewing, includes interviews with former Georgetown coach John Thompson, Heat president Pat Riley, agent David Falk, and journalists Michael Wilbon, Selena Roberts and Phil Taylor.
Weinbach is hoping either the NBA or a regional network like Fox Sports will pick up the film for distribution on television. But for now, it’s available for viewing online.
Ewing helped recruit Mourning to Georgetown, counseled him on accepting a trade from Charlotte to Miami in 1995 and once offered Mourning one of his kidneys.
Weinbach said he interviewed Mourning and Ewing in late October and early November, around the start of the NBA season. Initially, the film was going to be released right after the All-Star break in February. Instead, Weinbach said it was held until the start of the playoffs and “fortuitously the Heat and Hornets were paired up in the first round.”
Weinbach said when Ewing and Mourning got together to film their joint segment they looked over photos and shared war stories. Ewing helped recruit Mourning to Georgetown, counseled him on accepting a trade from Charlotte to Miami in 1995 and once offered Mourning one of his kidneys when he was in dire need of a transplant in 2003. Mourning said when he won the NBA title with the Heat in 2006, he dedicated it to Ewing.
“What was cool was seeing them interact in person,” Weinbach said. “Alonzo on his own can be intimidating. He likes to sort of test people. He’s always dressed impeccably. He’s always physically intimidating. He’s always so put together. He tries to put on that tough, combative shield.
“But then when Patrick is in the room, it really changes. Zo’s voice quality changes. He becomes more gregarious and funnier. And he likes to make fun of Patrick. I didn’t realize how thick of a Jamaican accent [Patrick] still has. His friend that came with him to the interviews made the accent emerge even more. And Alonzo made fun of him the whole time. It was great.”
Ewing, who has been an assistant coach for the last 12 years with the Rockets, Magic, and Hornets, told the New York Daily News earlier this month he was interested in being head coach of the Knicks, a job that is currently vacant. Thus far, though, Kurt Rambis and David Blatt are the two reported frontrunners to land the job.