For any readers who missed it, here’s our awesome interview with crazy Ewing collector Dave Goldberg from a few months back.
The announcement that Ewing Athletics was making a comeback this year was greeted with universal rapture. It seems this long-lost brand built around the name of one man does seem to have a sentimental fanbase, one that has been waiting patiently for this day since production ceased in 1996. Now, we like to think we know our shoes, but we have to come clean and admit that our knowledge of Ewings could be pretty much summed up as beginning and ending with the 33 Hi model. That was until we tracked Dave Goldberg down in NYC. With a Ewing collection described as ‘almost complete’, Dave is one of the most knowledgable Ewing heads in the world. Prepare to be high-schooled as we take it back to the 90s!
Were you a fan of Ewing as a player or is your obsession just about the shoes?
Both actually. I grew up in New York and my interest in the Ewing brand was the culmination of the Knicks being my favorite team, Ewing my favorite player and my love for sneakers all merged into one.
As a New Yorker, you must have seen the brand on the street pretty early on.
I noticed Patrick was wearing the 33 Hi in games as a nine-year-old and figured they must have been customised adidas sneakers as I was aware that he endorsed the brand. One day I saw someone wearing Ewings on the street and realized they weren’t adidas at all, but his own company. By late 1990 Ewings were the hottest shoes out and I finally convinced my mom to get me a pair as they had become available in more stores and finally in kids’ sizes. A myriad of colorways were available of the 33 Hi and soon they had other models as well, not just his signature game shoe, but also other basketball models, cross trainers and runners too. It’s funny, but I can recall somehow finding the phone number to the Ewing Athletics sales office and telling them my family owned a store (we certainly did not!) and that we wanted catalogues, so every season they would send me a catalogue.
How did you get started with collecting?
I was always into sneakers and I would take note of the models and styles, especially by the time the Jordan 3 came out. My first proper pair of shoes was the Jordan 5 in black and silver and then after that, like I said, I got the Ewing 33 Hi.
By 1996 Ewing had released the Empire, the final model, which was sold in Foot Locker and also direct to consumers via phone sales. As the years went on I got into collecting and managed to find a few pairs for dirt cheap. But as more people picked up on the shoes, prices began to rise noticeably. It got to a point where I paid almost $300 for a pair of 33 Hi deadstock in the box. At least they were in perfect condition. And in a previously unseen black/white colorway.
With a collection this size, you must have some good hunting stories.
As time went on I acquired more and more Ewings, but they were either obscure models or in broken-down condition. However, one day I noticed an eBay seller had put up a few pairs of deadstock 33 Hi and implied that they had more. Long story short, I ended up paying about $1000 for more than 30 pairs in what is my greatest sneaker score to this day. Most of the shoes were 33 Hi in super-rare colors that today are worth $300 each easy.
Since then I have scoured the net and I basically now have every Ewing model. I have Patrick’s Olympic shoe known as the Eclipse and a few player-issued autographed samples as well.
I also have a pair of Nikes with his name and number on the tongue from his final season at Orlando Magic. I recently picked up an unworn pair of the Ewing adidas Conductor in the original box with the wrapping paper from Yahoo Japan as well. Even though he wore adidas early in his career and Nike at the end, the Ewing Athletics models are always the best.
Are there any Ewings you don’t have?
There is one model missing from my collection called the Image. Patrick wore this shoe in the 1994 All Star Game and liked it so much he wore it through the entire 1995 season as well, including the All Star game and playoffs. It had a Nike Huarache-like upper and a ventilation system on the sole. I was never able to find a pair unfortuantely, but they’ll turn up one day.
The Rogue is one model that still looks fresh.
The Rogue II in black and purple with the straps has gained a ton of internet fame in recent years based purely on pictures floating around the net. What most people don’t realize is that the shoe was a European exclusive – it never came out in the USA! I bought a pair from Italy a few years ago. It was definitely a solid shoe, but for me it drew too much inspiration from the Jordan 8 in both the design and colorway. Many of the later Ewings went this route and it negatively affected the public’s perception of the brand, at least here in New York.
And the Focus?
The Focus was Patrick’s game shoe in the 1992-93 season. It is extremely bright and I consider the color blocking to be years ahead of its time. Back then NBA players didn’t wear loud, bright, exotic colors. They wore an all-white or all-black shoe with highlights of their team colors.
The Focus was ridiculously bright. I remember TV announcers talking about the shoe and how bright the orange was. Nowadays of course, this is standard practice.
The Wrap Hi is another classic design.
The Wrap Hi from 1994 was not worn by Patrick in games, but it is pretty distinctive with its built-in ankle strap and the way it attached and detached from the shoe. Years later the Jordan 20 used this exact strap idea, but Nike made it attachable at the front of the foot, not the back. It was the most original idea I had seen at the time and I remember playing with it in the store, trying to understand exactly how it worked and what it did. Funnily enough, I picked up a deadstock pair two years ago from Poland and it’s in such pristine shape, it looks practically brand new.
I never knew Ewing made cross trainers like the Swatt.
Actually, the Swatt was a basketball shoe, but it was a lower-end model with a gum rubber sole. The Ewing game shoes and performance models retailed for about $75-80 in the mid-90s at a time when Jordans and top-tier Nikes were about $120. The lower-end Ewings were toned-down in terms of features and were closer to $50, but these became very popular as it provided kids with a hot NBA name at an affordable price. The higher tag on the game shoes still kept the brand cool enough and close enough to its competitors.
You mentioned Jordan a few times, I guess that is unavoidable given the era we’re talking about. People forget that it was Patrick Ewing who was the first player to have his own brand, not Michael Jordan. Jordan just endorsed Nikes until they created his sub-brand in 1997. Years earlier, Patrick had his own brand, with his own name on the tongue and just like the Jordan Brand of today, they were releasing up to 20 different models a year, as well as clothing. So yeah, I think Ewing definitely deserves more recognition for this achievement. I often wonder if Kobe or LeBron could leave Nike and build their own company instead. It could be a lot more lucrative, but it’s also riskier, which is probably why no one has seriously ever tried it since.
The boxes still look mighty impressive. I think brands underestimate the power of packaging and the effect this imagery has on youngsters.
The Ewing branding was definitely strong and it was a huge part of the appeal for me. But I guess you have to remember there was no name like Nike or adidas behind them, so they had no choice but to rely heavily on the Ewing name and the extreme branding on the box and the shoe itself. In particular the boxes are great to me because they are totally unique and different from anything out at the time or even today. The different distributors Phoenix and Next Sports sometimes had their names on the tags or box, but it wasn’t their brand, they just did the production and distribution for Ewing Athletics.
How do you feel about the news that Ewing Athletics is making a comeback in 2012?
I think it’ll do great in today’s marketplace as long as it’s kept 100% authentic and true to the originals. The 33 Hi would be the first and most important shoe to retro IMHO, as it’s not just a cult classic, but a staple of 90s New York style. To this day when you mention Ewings to anyone, nine times out of ten they always thinks of the 33 Hi model.
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