Certain names evoke particularly strong feelings for certain people. For Syracuse and Georgetown fans, there are a host of names that can bring up rage, joy, sadness and everything in between. Syracuse fans will always hate Ewing and love Pearl. The Hoyas faithful will fondly remember 'Zo and rue the day they first heard about 'Melo. What makes for these strong emotional connections is the great basketball played in the most heated rivalry in the greatest basketball conference ever assembled.
On Saturday, a new crop of athletes will etch their names into the recently dormant, but nevertheless monolithic antagonism that is Georgetown versus Syracuse.
We've already recounted some of the most memorable moments of the rivalry, but moments are made by players (and sometimes coaches) and some of those players stand out above the rest. Here are the five that loom the largest in our minds.
(Editor's note: These players were selected in a very sophisticated voting process and are ranked based on who received the most votes.)
5. Allen Iverson
If you guessed that Iverson would be on this top five list then I guess you got the answer right. Get it? Sorry. I'll just move on.
Iverson deserves a place on a number of top five lists so seeing him here is no surprise. A transcendent player with talent and swagger oozing out of him, AI played for two seasons at Georgetown. His scoring prowess was incredible, as he averaged 23 points per game in his career, netting 25 a night as a sophomore. He led the entire country in field goals in 1996 and also topped the Big East in win shares (9.4) that season. If scoring wasn't your cup of tea, Iverson had another brew ready for you, as he put up incredible career numbers in steals (3.2 SPG) and was a strong passer (4.6 APG) as well.
The 1995 Big East Rookie of the Year and back-to-back Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Iverson still holds a number of individual records at Georgetown and helped the Hoyas all the way to the 1996 Elite Eight where they fell to Marcus Camby and No. 1 Massachusetts.
As far as Iverson's contribution to the Syracuse rivalry, the 6-foot guard played a hand in two incredible battles as a freshman, when the teams split their meetings by a combined four points. His second season also featured a split, but with less fanfare, with each game decided by at least 19.
4. Alonzo Mourning
Another Georgetown All-American, the man known simply as 'Zo was another in a long lineage of Georgetown big men that dominated the Big East. Emulating Patrick Ewing, Mourning wore the same No. 33 jersey and had the same type of gray T-shirt under his uniform. He didn't just wear the same gear, however, he was a monster in the paint, blocking shots from Providence to Pittsburgh. cleaning glass across the Northeast, all while putting the Hoyas on his back offensively. As a senior, he recorded 22 double-doubles and averaged 20.7 PPG and 10.9 RPG in 16 Big East affairs. Then he scored 76 points and 22 rebounds across three games in the Big East Tournament, although it was all in vain as the Hoyas lost in the title game to, you guessed it, Syracuse.
The Orange were always a thorn in Mourning's side. He went 3-7 all-time against Syracuse and just 1-6 after his freshman season when he led the Hoyas to an 88-79 victory over the Orange in the Big East title game. That win came just a week after No. 6 Syracuse knocked off No. 2 Georgetown at the Carrier Dome and just over four years to the day before David Johnson hit his Big East championship-winning floater in Mourning's face.
3. Gerry McNamara
While he may not have been the All-American talent and future NBA star that Iverson and Mourning were, McNamara can lay claim to a more impressive college resume, at least in terms of championships. In his four years, the Orange won two conference tournaments, one Big East regular season title and, thanks to a fellow named Carmelo Anthony, a national championship.
McNamara became the team leader after 'Melo left for the NBA following their freshmen seasons. He did an admirable job during his whole career, averaging 15.5 points and 4.8 assists per game. His bread-and-butter was the 3-point shot. He nailed 400 total triples for his career, and had at least 100 in each of his last three seasons. Those 400 treys are more than any player has ever made in Big East history, as are his 1,131 3-point field goal attempts.
You may have read about McNamara's buzzer-beating 3-pointer against Geogetown from 2004, but that wasn't the only clutch trey of his career. The entire Big East got an even larger sampling of G-Mac's killer instinct from 3-point land in 2006 when McNamara went bananas to lead a 19-win Syracuse team to the Big East tournament title. The Orange ran into Georgetown during the run, facing off with their hated rival in the semifinals. McNamara sent Georgetown home in epic fashion, drilling 5-of-9 3-points, including a critical one in the final minute, to go with his game-winning assist to Eric Devendorf.
2. Dwayne "Pearl" Washington
Sure, the New York Knicks have Earl Monroe, but to Syracuse and Big East fans, Dwayne Washington is the real Pearl. A 6-foot-2 guard from Brooklyn, Washington was the face of the Orange in the early 80s, right when the rivalry began to heat up. It was Ewing's Georgetown against Pearl's 'Cuse. His fearless attitude (clearly on display in his infamous run-in with Ewing) and crafty ball-handling made him a tough player to stop. He averaged 15.6 points and 6.7 assists per game during his career, including a stupendous 17.3 PPG, 7.8 APG campaign as a junior. Basketball historians will note that the 3-point line was not part of the college game during Pearl's time, so his scoring could have been even more impressive.
Against Georgetown, Pearl's ability to move with the ball made him a real X-factor, as he was able to break the press the Hoyas ran under John Thompson. As a junior, Pearl put his signature on the rivalry when he led Syracuse to a 75-73 win over Georgetown in the Big East semifinals on his way to Big East Tournament MVP honors, although Syracuse fell short in the title game against St. John's.
1. Patrick Ewing
During those early rumbles that really kick-started the Georgetown-Syracuse rivalry, Ewing was the man who's name shone brightest on the marquee. A 7-foot phenom originally from Jamaica, Ewing's physical gifts were unparalleled in the Big East, a conference with teams that relied more heavily on guards and smaller frontcourt operators. From 1981 to 1985 nobody invoked more fear in the paint than Ewing, who was named the Big East Player of the Year in 1984 and 1985 and was a first-team All-American in 1985, the same year he earned Naismith College Player of the Year honors.
During his career, Ewing blocked 493 shots, grabbed 1,316 rebounds and scored 2,184 points. He still holds the all-time record for rebounds at Georgetown as well as the records for blocks, games played (143) and minutes (4,399). He is the second all-time leading scorer.
Unfortunately, the ease with which Ewing played on the floor did not equate to an easy relationship with fans of other teams. Ewing was often harassed far beyond the realm of acceptability in opposing gyms, and that included the Carrier Dome.
However, the bulk of the animosity between Ewing and Syracuse was based on the events on the floor. The fever pitch of the rivalry came in the 1985 Big East semifinals when Washington punched Ewing in the stomach, causing an explosion that had been brewing for years. Ewing came away with the win in that contest, putting up 15 points and 12 rebounds in a 74-65 victory. More often than not, Ewing got the better of the Orange, winning three Big East crowns, twice topping Syracuse in the title game, and claiming victory in eight of 11 total meetings against the Orange.