Profile | Earl Monroe, The Pearl of Philadelphia

If Ray Allen has the nickname Jesus, it’s partly because of him.

The scene is set in Spike Lee’s He Got Game. Jake Shuttlesworth, played by Denzel Washington, talks to his son Jesus, played by Ray Allen. The discussion focuses on the origin of the name Jesus, which is a point of contention between the two men at the beginning of the film.

Jake then explains that his favorite player is named Earl Monroe, which was his nickname during his years on the team. playground It was Jesus from Philadelphia. That’s why his son is named.

The reference is spot on, but not trivial: Earl Monroe achieved a feat that stuck in everyone’s mind without any legendary performances or crazy statistics. In fact, he celebrated the souls with the only thing that really mattered, the land.

Not easy in a league dominated at the time by a certain Kareem Abdul Jabbar or a handful of great scorers like Julius Erving, Rick Barry and George Gervin…

The legend of playgrounds

Vernon Earl Monroe was born on November 21, 1944 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He grew up in South Philly and was passionate about sports at a very young age. Not basketball, not baseball, not even traditional football. With a height of 1m91 at only 14 years old, many orange ball coaches are interested in his profile…

His integration into basketball goes so well that he immediately becomes a fan of this sport. He then rotates on his team, a position he would hold for much of his youth.

At the same time, Earl Monroe perfected his game playground Philadelphia and his reputation grew to such an extent that he was nicknamed Black Jesus. Legend even says that his real nickname was Jesus, but most white media made a distinction by adding his black face. What a Black Jesus.

During his high school years at John Bartram, and to describe his great offensive game, his teammates nicknamed him Thomas Edison in reference to the American inventor.

Earl Monroe then applied to the small black faculty of Winston-Salem State, about 145 kilometers from a certain college in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. The future… Michael Jordan.

The Philadelphia native has been advancing there every year. This is proven by his average scores: 7.1 points freshmanAs in 23.2 sophomore and 29.8 points small.

Coach Clarence Gaines, a Hall of Famer since 1982, became an important father figure to Earl Monroe, and during his year big, his most famous nickname is given by a local journalist. The original phrase “Earl’s Pearls” is a plural used by the author to describe his grandiose method of collecting his points. History will remember the “Pearl” or pearl in French.

Indeed, in 1966/67, “Earl the Pearl” scored 41.5 points per game, was named the best player in the country and led his college to the NCAA title.

His Bullet years

Due to his stellar performances in college, Earl Monroe was selected 2nd overall by the Baltimore Bullets in the 1967 Draft behind Jimmy Walker, father of Jalen Rose.

He managed a very good campaign, averaging 24.3 points, the 13th best performance for a rookie in history, especially with his peak of 56 against the Lakers. In his wake, the Bullets won 16 more than the previous season.

The following year, Earl Monroe confirmed a solid rookie season, posting a career-best 25.8 points per game. In addition to his individual talent, Baltimore built a great team around him. So great that he wins 57 matches.

The elements of this success are multifaceted. Above all, center Wes Unseld, who averaged 13.8 points and 18.2 rebounds, won the Rookie of the Year and the MVP, a rare feat in history, since only Wilt Chamberlain had accomplished it in 1960. No one has done it since. this equaled the performance!

The league at the time featured great talent like Gus Johnson, Jack Marin, and Kevin Loughery, all backed by an ultra-efficient run and gun and the fantastic defense of Wes Unseld.

The Bullets advance to the division semifinals, taking time as the conference cutoff doesn’t happen until 1970, but their hopes are dashed by the Knicks. to sweep. Rebelote the next year, but this time Baltimore lost in Game 7 again against eventual champion New York.

Discovered by Earl Monroe in 1970/71 Finals Against the Bucks, but the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar-Oscar Robertson duo is too strong and the streak ends after 4 short games…

The future therefore looks bright for the Bullets, as winning the title is impossible with a few good extra picks. Only salary issues mar the relationship between “The Pearl” and its franchise.

On November 10, 1971, after only 3 games, the unthinkable happened: combination protector Mike Riordan is traded to Dave Stallworth and the Knicks, a sworn enemy against cash.

His New York era

Earl Monroe comes to New York after averaging 23.7 points in four full seasons in Baltimore. He then finds his best rival and fellow Draftsman, Walt Frazier.

Since 1967, Monroe has faced Frazier 21 times, and The Pearl’s offense has always been tested by Clyde’s legendary defense. But the move also raises several questions: How do you keep these two men together, and above all, how do you integrate such a strong but demanding offensive talent into the Knicks’ excellent collective game?

Earl Monroe is having some trouble integrating. He carries the ball less and becomes less effective. In addition, he has been plagued by knee and ankle issues, resulting in him averaging just 60 games in 21 minutes, which has reduced him to 12 points per game. Despite everything, New York has reached again Finalsbut Los Angeles wins in 5 rounds.

Then the second season, he gets the transplant, “Pearl” averages 15.5 points and his relationship with Walt Frazier is described as a Rolls Royce. back yard. The Knicks won 57 games and Monroe found the Bullets in the playoffs and won the series in 5 games. Then the New Yorkers eliminated the Celtics, even though they were favorites to find the Lakers for a third confrontation at the Stade des. Finals.

Earl Monroe scored 23 points in Game 5 and the Knicks won their second title three years after 1970. But that feat was also New York’s last, as the 1968 rookie saw all of his teammates. retired after the season and even Walt Frazier moved to Cleveland in 1977.

Finding himself alone on the team, “Pearl” is regaining his offensive flair with three recent campaigns of 20 points per game, but his two practices ended with early graduation. He retired in 1980, at the age of 35, and later became a manager in the music industry before returning to basketball as a commentator.

A virtuoso of the game

In 1989, Earl Monroe joined the Hall of Fame, and in 1996 he was named one of the 50 best players in NBA history. Dec. 1, 2007 Top prize: Washington Wizards (formerly Baltimore) retired No. 10.

But what remains of “Inci” is the virtuosity of his performance. rotational motion it was perfect and his offensive imagination knew no bounds. But he was also a very smart player, he came to New York with a tag maestro one-on-one, and he managed to blend into the Knicks’ game, becoming one of Madison Square Garden’s favorites.

Thus, Earl Monroe played very collectively, often preferring to pass the ball to a prominent teammate who was better involved on defense, and relieved Walt Frazier. A distinguished professional and legend of the game…


926 games in 13 seasons
18.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists and 1.3 steals
46.4% shooting, 80.7% free throws


Hall of Fame
NBA Top 75 member
NBA champion in 1973
All-NBA First Team in 1969
Rookie of the Year in 1968
All-Star in 1969, 1971, 1975 and 1977

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