Patrick Ewing's Presidential Sneakers

This set of player exclusives for the Knicks legend celebrates his new title at Ewing Athletics, and the debut of a new model.

Ewing Athletics Player Exclusives
Ewing Athletics made three player exclusives for Patrick Ewing to welcome him as brand president. Via Ewing Athletics
Ewing Athletics Player Exclusives

Patrick Ewing for president? The all-time New York Knicks great won’t appear on any ballots in the 2024 general election, but he did step into one such role at the end of last year. As of October 2023, Ewing is the new president of Ewing Athletics, his namesake sneaker brand that marked the beginning of his post-Adidas footwear in 1989, went dormant in 1996, and reemerged in 2012. (The title is familiar to him—Ewing was president of the National Basketball Players Association from 1997 to 2001.)

Ewing has been involved with the brand since its relaunch, but never in this capacity. His job from 2017 to 2023 as head coach of the men’s basketball team at his alma mater, Georgetown, prevented him from being too closely involved with Ewing Athletics. Georgetown is a Jordan Brand-sponsored school, which meant Ewing was limited in how much he could promote his own imprint. When Georgetown relieved Ewing of his duties last March, it also relieved him of any commitments to sneaker brands not bearing his name.

Now he communicates with Ewing Athletics on a weekly basis, giving approval and feedback on sneaker designs, as he did in the ’90s. An exception, a surprise set of sneakers that he did not have oversight on, is the player exclusive trio shown here, which was presented to Ewing this week as a belated gift commemorating his new title. 

On its new SL33 model, Ewing Athletics created an Air Force One-inspired colorway with “Prez” embroidery at the heel. This special pair for Ewing has a blue and white upper mimicking the colors used on the actual Air Force One airplane (not the Nike shoe). Ewing fell in love with the details, including the presidential seal on the tongue.

The brand made two more exclusives of the SL33 for Ewing: one in a Charlotte Hornets combo as a nod to his current coaching consultant gig with that team, and one in the requisite New York Knicks palette.

Ewing has no official affiliation with the latter organization (and demurs when asked about predictions for moves the Knicks might make before the trade deadline), but still feels it’s only right that any sneaker of his be tied back to his time there.

“That’s my team,” says Ewing, “that’s my city.”

The shoes are not meant to look only to the past. When he rejoined Ewing Athletics, Ewing requested to CEO David Goldberg that the brand modernize its silhouettes, the most noteworthy among them being the uber-chunky Ewing 33 Hi. 

“We need to streamline our stuff some more, come up with the low cuts,” says Ewing. “He hopped on that right away.”

Product line manager Jonas Guerrero assisted with the cuts on a literal level. He took X-Acto knives to the Ewing Sport Lite, trimming it down and cutting the padding out. The result is the Ewing SL33, which Ewing got first crack at via the never-releasing player-exclusive colorways; the model will drop for the public in other versions this summer at $130.

Ewing Athletics SL33 President

The sleeker silhouette is a departure from the calf-dominating puffiness most associated with the Ewing sneakers from the ’90s, but the brand did have lower models back then, like the original Sport Lite, the Boomer Low, and the Altitude. Those shoes were Ewing’s go-to for casual wear, as opposed to the bigger sneakers he wore when dominating the paint with the Knicks.

“If you see any pictures of Patrick from back in the day, when he wasn’t playing, he always had low tops on,” says Goldberg, who relaunched Ewing Athletics in 2012.

When he was on the court, it was the high tops. And always a fresh pair.

“My playing days, I wore a new pair every game,” says Ewing. 

His career in coaching does not necessitate a shoe that can contain the full exertion of his seven-foot frame, so a shape like the SL33 is more fitting for the 2024 Ewing.

“It’s not like I’m playing anymore so I don’t need to run around in them,” says Ewing. “I’m old now, I just walk around. I ride the bike, I walk. All those running and jumping days are long gone.”

Ewing SL33 Knicks

The sneakers from those running, jumping, and dunking days persist—sort of. Goldberg, who’s sourced game-used pairs from collectors, has a gang of Ewing’s original shoes on display at the Ewing Athletics office in New Jersey. Because of their age, some are brittle to the touch, and none are suitable for wear.

“The problem is, even if they’re brand-new, deadstock pairs, none of them can be worn,” says Goldberg. “They’re all breaking apart. Even just to pick it up, it’s crumbling.”

Were it not for the revival of Ewing Athletics in the 2010s, the brand could have been lost to history. Instead, Ewing’s been a direct witness to a new generation of NBA players discovering the sneakers he wore decades ago. Some of those players are not bashful about going straight to the source to get their pairs.

“There’s a lot of guys who are playing in the league now that are sneakerheads,” says Ewing. “When I was coaching in the NBA, they would ask for sneakers. I would send them.”

Which players exactly are putting in those kinds of requests?

“I’m not gonna name any names and mess people’s contracts up,” says Ewing.