WASHINGTON — If you think Patrick Ewing, the 7-foot-tall New York Knick center and former Georgetown Hoya star, is tough on a hardwood floor, you should see him as a daddy.
Patrick Ewing Jr., all of 2 1/2 years old, was sitting on daddy's lap, doing his best imitation of rap artist Kurtis Blow's "Playing Basketball."
"He thinks he's a basketball player already," Ewing said. "Are you a basketball player, little Patrick?"
"Yes, daddy. I'm gonna be a basketball player."
"No, you're not, boy. Don't you want to be a doctor?"
This has been a summer of responsibility for Patrick Ewing Sr. He has been diligently rehabilitating his right knee after recent arthroscopic knee surgery and taking a finance course at Georgetown. In between, he has assumed a fatherly role not only with his own son, but two nephews and one niece. "I have three nephews and nieces down here (Washington) with me for a while (14, 12 and 10 years old) and I've let them baby-sit some and he drives them crazy," Ewing said. "But as a dad, I've been hanging in there. I've taken them to the zoo, but mostly I've just been trying to spend time with them, listen to them, talk with them."
For the first time, Ewing chose to discuss publicly his relationship with his son and other details of his post-Georgetown personal life.
Little Patrick, as he is most often called, became a big topic of conversation more than a year ago when a reporter who visited Ewing's family home in Boston found a birth certificate and made the discovery public. Ewing, who is not married to the child's mother, Sharon Stanford, was being sued by her for child support.
And once again, one of basketball's most private major figures was in the center of controversy.
Ewing has had objects thrown at him, demeaning signs held high in school arenas, and been criticized for everything from his style of play to the very fact that he was accepted at Georgetown five years ago.
But not much of it bothered Ewing. Being painted as an irresponsible father, however, angered him.
"It upset me because people were trying to portray me as some kind of bad guy who was trying to shirk his responsibilities," Ewing said. "But that just wasn't truth. It wasn't close to the truth, and it got me angry.
"His mother dropped the lawsuit that was filed a while ago," Ewing said while sitting in Georgetown's McDonough Arena, with Little Patrick playing nearby. "There didn't even need to be a lawsuit as far as I was concerned because there was never any doubt in my mind that I was going to take care of him.
"As a matter of fact, immediately after I got out of school and was able to make some money, I started sending his mother money to take care of him. One of the first things I did was put some money away in a trust fund, so he'll have money to go to school or whatever he wants to do.
"I don't want to just support him financially. And I really don't care if he never wants to play basketball. But I want to spend as much time with him as I can. I want him to enjoy his childhood. I just love him."
That last statement is obvious to most anyone who has seen the two together, whether in Boston, where Stanford lives, in Georgetown, where Ewing has worked most of the summer, or at the National Zoo, where Ewing took the gang recently.
"He has shown nothing but affection for little Patrick," said Georgetown Coach John Thompson, who has become a sort of adoptive grandfather. "And it's not easy for a lot of men, no matter how much they love their sons, to show the kind of affection and attention that Patrick has shown. That little kid is with Patrick every step."
Little Patrick looks much like his father, speaks in complete sentences and loves candy. When a photographer snapped pictures of the two on the gymnasium balcony, little Patrick asked, "Daddy, are you smiling?" It's not going to be easy for this pair to part in a few days, and Ewing knows that.
"I had him for about a month earlier this summer, and I'm going to have him for a couple of more weeks before he goes back to his mother," Ewing said. "I love him. He's a brat sometimes, though.
"It's difficult to work out and try to spend as much time with him as I can. That's why I bring him up here and let him play with Coach Thompson until I finish working out."
Ewing isn't planning for his son to be too comfortable in a gym.
"He already runs around with a tennis ball and he makes a shooting motion up in the air like he's taking a shot at an imaginary basket," Ewing said.
"To tell you the truth, maybe it will be better if he doesn't try to become a basketball player, because there wouldn't be all that pressure on him, I'm talking about the comparisons that all the people would make: 'Are you going to be as good as your father?' I don't know if I would want my son to have to deal with that.