The Plot Twist In Rita And Patrick Ewing's Marriage

Rita Ewing is reluctant to talk about her breakup with her husband, who is president of the NBA players union, one of the league's highest-paid players and owner of a $1.6 million residence in Potomac, Md. They met in 1983 when she was a 17-year-old Howard University intern in then-Sen. Bill Bradley's office. Ewing, a big-time Georgetown University basketball star at the time, was a summer intern for the Senate Finance Committee. He sometimes made deliveries to Bradley's office and became smitten.

In February, after 71/2 years of marriage, Rita Ewing released a statement from her divorce attorney confirming she and her husband had split but were trying to work out an "amicable resolution to our problems." The statement came three weeks after a caller to the Howard Stern radio show claimed Ewing was having an affair with Knicks dancer Heather Errico. At the time, Errico was an intern for Stern. Errico resigned from the Knicks City troupe, but she has since said she didn't cause the breakup.

"Cheez, can we let that go?" begs Rita Ewing, acting as though she is hardly wounded, just annoyed. "By now, I'm friends with the girl." She's kidding.

"To this day, as far as I know, that woman was a rumor," she maintains. "But Patrick and me have had our issues for a long time."

What issues, she won't say. Though separated from the player who signed a four-year, $68 million contract last year, Rita Ewing says she is not bitter. "We are probably better friends than we've ever been." Then she turns playful, as though she's singing the theme song from "Barney": "I love him. He loves me."

"I had a wonderful marriage," says Ewing.

Had, as in the past.