Remembering Earl Monroe 30 years after Knicks jersey retirement

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Football News

Earl Monroe; what is there to say that has not already been relayed a thousand times when speaking about the former New York Knicks and Baltimore Bullets star? A master on the hardwood, he could do it all. His handles were among the best ever, and they did not call him the master of the spin move for nothing.

The retired guard is remembered for helping the New York Knicks win their second - and still last - title back in 1973. The Pearl picked up his only career ring two years after moving to the Big Apple from the Baltimore Bullets.

Having averaged 16.6 points and 3.5 assists per game during his nine-year spell with the Knicks, a number 15 jersey proudly hangs from the rafters of Madison Square Garden to commemorate his achievement.

It is 30 years to the day since Pearl's jersey was retired by the fabled Eastern Conference franchise and his backcourt partnership with Walt Frazier is remembered fondly by Knicks fans, but it was his time in Baltimore that really defined him as a player.

The ring may not have arrived, but during his four full seasons with the Bullets, Monroe electrified arenas up and down the United States of America with his silky smooth approach to the game that has never since been replicated.

The Philadelphia native produced career-best numbers - including 25.8 points per game in 1968-69 - during his time in Maryland and was never able to reproduce those statistics with the Knicks, despite ending his long wait for a championship.

Monroe and the Bullets did have one shot; after claiming their inaugural conference title, they faced the Milwaukee Bucks in the '71 finals, but a young Kareem Abdul-Jabbar claimed his first of six rings as the Bucks swept the series.

However, honours do not define a player; talent, heart, desire and excitement are what people will remember, and those are the traits that defined his legacy. Earl had it all in abundance in Mobtown.

He broke the 40 point barrier 10 times during his career, all of them coming before his trade to New York, and poured in 56 during a memorable performance against the Los Angeles Lakers in 1968.

Monroe put on a masterclass of attacking, stylish basketball to finish with 20 of 33 from the field, despite the Bullets falling to a loss, it is a game that will forever be remembered as his career-high night.

Today's league is filled with players who would have been influenced by Monroe. However, there has never been a man who has been able to emulate what he could do on the hardwood.

Never has someone turned defences inside out with mind-boggling spin moves or produced such calm and carefree handling in tight situations. The Pearl was revolutionary back in the 60s and 70s but the now-71-year-old is still considered an innovator.

He changed the game of basketball. The individual accolades may have eluded him; there was no MVP, no scoring titles, just one All-NBA First Team selection, but, what he did, changed the future.

He dazzled, he amazed and, more importantly, he inspired a generation of players. Not only does his jersey hang high at MSG, it can also be found at the Verizon Center with the Washington Wizards happy to remember a legend of their franchise.

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