"The Pearl" Still Shining: An Interview with New York Knicks Legend Earl Monroe

Keith Schlosser@KnicksJournal Analyst INovember 24, 2009

The NBA, HP, and Microsoft have joined forces to promote the new Windows 7 operating system. NBA legends have been appearing at Best Buy locations around the country to help aid the promotion.

Thanks to Bleacher Report, I was given the tremendous opportunity to take part in the promotion in New York City to meet and interview Knicks legend Earl “The Pearl” Monroe.

Monroe, a Hall of Famer, enjoyed a 13-year career with the New York Knicks and the Baltimore Bullets. Best known for his flashy and jaw dropping moves, Monroe was a pioneer in bringing the playground moves onto the court. His career was capped off by four all-star appearances and a championship ring with the Knicks in 1973.

To this day, he is a special part of the New York community. It was an honor to meet such a lighthearted individual who carries himself with such pride and not to mention, a terrific sense of humor. “Black Jesus” himself sat down with me to discuss his career, today’s NBA—including the current status of the Knicks—what he is up to today, and much more.

Without further adieu, here are 15 questions in honor of the Knicks’ own No. 15, Earl Monroe.

Q: Earl, You were one of the flashiest players on the court during your playing days. How did you come up with all of your signature moves?

A: I didn’t really think about it because I didn’t start playing until I was 14. It was mainly just trial and error. Nowadays, you have clinics where somebody comes and teaches you how to play. I basically taught myself. The things that worked, I kept and the things that didn’t, I threw out. I’m not a self made player, but the things that worked certainly came from playing in the playgrounds.

Besides your flashiness, is there anything else that you would like to be remembered by?

A: That’s an interesting question. More than anything else, the way I understood and played the game. When I came here to New York with bone spurs in my foot, understanding how to play the game really helped me out when I had to adjust my game.

What I usually tell people is had I known networks like ESPN were starting to show highlights, I would have played longer!

Do you have a favorite accomplishment?

A: Well, obviously winning the championship is the pinnacle of everything. The other thing that I am really happy about is the fact that the guys that I played with and I are still friends. They invited me to the 40th anniversary of the first Knicks championship.

Even though I was an enemy at that time
(Monroe did not join the Knicks until the 1971-72 season), they felt well enough to invite me to that. The great thing about sports is that if you have not seen anybody in a long time, when you come together, it’s like you haven’t missed a beat.

Was that one of your favorite things about playing with the Knicks?

A: Definitely—the friendships. When people ask me what I miss most about the game, it’s being in the locker room and getting to know the guys. Back in those days, we had roommates. We had to talk basketball and that was a great way to understand the game itself and form those lasting relationships.

Do any of today’s guards remind you of yourself during your career?

A: Well you know, not really. Every now and then, I see guys do things that I might have done, but they have taken it to another level. It’s always good to know when I look back, however, that I can recognize what I did. I’m pretty satisfied with that.

You and Chris Paul both came up in North Carolina. Do you follow his game at all?

A: Yes, my college coach was very close to his family. He has not only become a great player, but a great statesman in terms of the way people see him. That’s a tribute to the great family he grew up with. The game of basketball is one thing, but the image of the game is another thing. I think Chris understands that very well.

And how important is that, to be involved in the community? Do you still try to stay involved with this New York community?

A: Oh yeah, I call myself a man of the people. I was just at a World Children’s Health Association function the other night. The kind of things that they are doing is just fantastic—finding kids with deformities and matching them up with hospitals and doctors to perform operations for free. There are a lot of charitable foundations that people can let themselves become involved in.

Basketball fans may not know that you are involved in Reverse Spin Records. Can you tell me a little about that?

A: Yes! We just finished shooting a couple of music videos. We have got a tremendous pop artist named Ciara Corr. We are trying to move forward. I have been involved in music since 1972 when I started managing two artists from The Jimi Hendrix Band. My family has been involved in music for years, so it’s kind of in my blood. I just wish I could sing!

What do you think of the Knicks this season?

A: Tough so far. I do not think they are as bad as their record, but sometimes you just get into a funk. It is just about getting over the hump.

What do the Knicks need to do to get over the hump?

A: I think a lot of it has to do with leadership. Guys have to look up to somebody. Everybody needs to have their own role and somebody has to be the star.

Is the team lacking that star?

A: They are lacking that star at this point because the team lacks consistency. I think the one thing they can do right now is play their young guys. You might as well focus on your future if you’ve already given up the season.

The development of the young guys was said to be the reason the Knicks did not sign Allen Iverson. Do you agree with that decision?

A: I like playing the young guys. Furthermore, I do not think this is the place for Allen Iverson. At this point in his career, it’s not just about playing. If he were playing in my day when you didn’t make any money, then you play as long as you can. Obviously, Iverson’s made a ton of money, and now it’s time to go for the championship.

In that case, is this really the place for LeBron James?

A: I don’t know that either. Obviously in LeBron’s situation, the money will be there wherever he goes. That being said, you want to go to a place where you can put your name on championship banners. If he is going to come to New York, there would obviously have to be other guys around him.

I could be wrong, but if I were him, that is the situation I would want to put myself in. Cleveland was in bad shape when he got there. Now that franchise is going up, and if he came to the Knicks, it would be like starting all over again.

Should LeBron even be considering the Knicks? Is there that potential to lay the foundation in order to win?

A: I think there is always potential. The young guys have to develop first. I was thinking this morning about Brandon Jennings. His coach is letting him play and realize his potential. When you have a coach that has confidence in you, it makes a big difference in your career.

Jennings started off a little slow, but he is at a plateau now. That is how I was in my career. Scoring 41 points per game in college, I knew I could score!. That being said, the NBA is a different animal. You have to feel like you belong. My coaches did a good job of helping me feel like that.

I guess I am talking about Jennings, because guys have been calling me saying “he almost got as many points as you did!” (referring to his own rookie scoring record of 56 in 1968). Back in the limelight, I suppose!

Thanks Earl. One last question before we go—who had more style, on and off the court, you or Knicks teammate Walt “Clyde” Frazier?

A: Ah, Clyde is Clyde. I will give that nod to him. He had more style.


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