Knicks Great Earl "The Pearl" Monroe Looks Back, Ahead

May 13, 2013

Simply one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Earl Monroe rose from the rough streets of South Philadelphia to the Hall of Fame in nearby Springfield.

As it would so often throughout his life, his prowess in hoops allowed The Pearl to advance, first to college hoops for Winston-Salem State University, where he averaged an astounding 41.5 points per game his senior year, and then to the pros, where he was named Rookie of Year for Baltimore.

He would eventually be traded to New York, where he teamed with Walt Frazier in the backcourt to form the flashy backbone of what would prove to be the Knicks’ last championship team in 1973. Monroe’s accolades are long: his number was retired by both franchises, he was a four-time All-Star, and he was named to the basketball bible that is the NBA’s Top 50 Players list.

Current Knicks fans might enjoy the showmanship of J.R. Smith or the sweet shot of Carmelo Anthony. Monroe had both down more than four decades ago. But his life has also had its ups and downs, both before and after his 1980 retirement, including brushes with racism and a complicated family life. 

Earl Monroe’s new memoir is Earl the Pearl: My Story, published by Rodale.