You can’t say his name without saying his nickname. That nickname stuck with him throughout his career and after his career. So how did Earl ‘The Pearl’ Monroe get his nickname?
A standout player in college and making it to the NBA
Monroe played in college at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina. As a freshman, he struggled only averaging 7.1 points per game. But he would quickly become a top player during his sophomore year. He averaged 23.2 points in his second year and continued to improve his junior and senior years. As a senior, he averaged 41.5 points per game. Monroe blossomed into one of the best players in college basketball, and in 1967 he was named NCAA College Division Player of the Year. He also led his team to a win in the 1967 NCAA College Division Championship with a 77-74 victory over Southwest Missouri State.
Malone ended his career on top, and during his four years at Winston-Salem State, he averaged 26.7 points, with 2,395 total points playing in 110 games. He still remains the leading scorer in CIAA basketball history. After a successful college career, the two-time All-American was selected No.2 overall by the Baltimore Bullets in the 1967 NBA draft. Monroe had a successful rookie campaign averaging 24.3 points per game. He scored 56 points against the Los Angeles Lakers, which is the third-highest rookie total in NBA history. After the season, he was named the Rookie of the Year.
During his time with the Bullets, he continued to be a top scorer on the team. He averaged over 20 points each season, and he became one of the top scorers in the league. Monroe made his first All-Star team in his second season and was named to the All-NBA First Team. He played in two All-Star games as a member of the Bullets.
Earl Monroe joining the New York Knicks after playing in Baltimore
Monroe only played three games with the Bullets during the 1971-72 season. He would eventually join the New York Knicks and finish the season with them. In 60 games, he 11.4 points. The Knicks made it to the 1972 NBA Finals and lost to the Los Angeles Lakers. The next season the Knicks returned to the finals and took on the Lakers once again. But this time it was a different ending. The Knicks defeated the Lakers 4-1, and Monroe averaged 16 points and 4.2 rebounds during the series.
Monroe finished his career playing for the Knicks, and he was a key reason for the team’s success. In the backcourt, Monroe played alongside Hall of Famer Walt Frazier. Together the two formed one of the best backcourts in NBA history. Toward the end of his career, injuries started to get to Monroe, and his numbers began to drop. After the 1980 season, he announced his retirement. Throughout his career, Monroe averaged 18.8 points, 3.9 assists, and three rebounds per game. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1990.
How did the nickname come about?
Monroe got his nickname before he played in the NBA. During his senior year of college, a black sportswriter from the Winston-Salem Journal followed Monroe all season. So he started referring to him as ‘Earl’s pearls.’ That nickname would soon turn into ‘Earl The Pearl.’ That stuck with him for the rest of his career.
So, Monroe can thank that sportswriter for the nickname. But one thing is for sure, Monroe was a player that knew how to score from anywhere on the court. His nickname was fitting because it was a beauty watching him play the game.