The 1990s were highlighted by some of the best center play we have ever seen. Game dominators like Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal were consistently glued to the block in a game that was much more physical and reliant on the big man. Among some of the ’90s greatest heavyweights were Patrick Ewing and David Robinson. Very similar in style of play, these guys were warriors in every single sense of the word. But which center was the better of the two? By going off what my man Kristofer Habbas has done with the point guards, let’s have a verdict by looking at the statistics, best year, playoff success, and historical effect.
STATISTICS (per game)
Ewing: 21.0 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 2.4 blocks, 50.4% FG%, 74.0% FT%
Robinson: 21.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, 1.4 steals, 3.0 blocks, 51.8% FG%, 73.6 FT%
Ewing: 24,815 (16th all-time)
Robinson: 20,790 (33rd all-time)
Ewing: 11,607 (24th all-time)
Robinson: 10,497 (29th all-time)
Ewing: 2,894 (sixth all-time)
Robinson: 2,954 (fifth all-time)
When reviewing statistics, there are two things to take in to consideration: quality and quantity. With three more seasons and 196 more games played than Robinson, it is no wonder that Ewing amassed more total points and rebounds. As much as this can be viewed as an unfair advantage to Pat, you also have to give him credit for sticking it out a few extra years.
As previously mentioned, these player’s games were eerily similar. You knew every time you had to play the Spurs or Knicks, you would be entering the paint at your own risk. By taking a look at the per game statistics you can see how evenly matched they were. Robinson barely one-upped Ewing in every category except for free throw percentage, where he was only .4% away. This is where the twilight of Ewing’s career came back to haunt him. It is nearly impossible to put up the same numbers at age 39 as you did while you were in your prime. If Ewing never suited up in those hideous green and red Sonics jerseys, or dabbled with the Orlando Magic for a year, then it is quite possible that their per-game averages would be much more similar.
Despite Ewing’s marks on the all-time list, Robinson put together the better quality of stats. Had the Admiral played 196 more games, according to his averages he would have 588 more blocks, 4,135 more points and 2,077 more rebounds. This would be enough to get him to second all-time in blocks, 17th all-time in rebounds, and once again one-upping Ewing to 15th all-time in points.
Advantage: David Robinson
Ewing (1989-90): 28.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.0 steals, 4.0 blocks, 55.1%
FG%, 77.5% FT%,
Robinson (1994-95): 27.6 points, 10.8 rebounds, 2.9 assists, 1.7 steals, 3.2 blocks, 53.0% FG%, 77.4% FT%
With so many magnificent seasons to choose from, picking the best year from each of these two Hall of Fame careers was not a simple task.
Ewing’s best season witnessed him play a full 82-game slate and average a career high 4.0 blocks. That year, the Ewing-led Knicks finished 3rd in their division, earning them the 5th seed and a first round matchup against the majestic Boston Celtics. After falling down 2-0, the Knicks stormed back to win the five game series, riding 27-year-old Ewing’s playoff averages of 29.4 points and 10.5 rebounds. The eventual NBA champion Detroit Pistons then ousted the Knicks in the next round, but despite this disappointment, Ewing had an MVP-caliber season.
David Robinson’s only MVP season came in 1994-95. Led by Robinson, the Spurs achieved a then-best franchise record at 62-20. Obtaining a No. 1 seed, the Spurs breezed through the Nuggets in the first round and took down the Lakers in six the next round before being dropped by Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals.
Because the only MVP between these two studs went to Robinson, we have to give him the nod in the best year department.
Advantage: David Robinson