For so many players in the past 30-plus years, he was the father to their styles. He brought the improvised creativity from the South Philadelphia playgrounds to the rigidity of the college and pro game. He was part of the “Rolls Royce backcourt” that was known for its flair on the hardwood and its style through the streets of the early ’70s New York. And yes, he was the inspiration to one of the greatest fictional names in sports film history.
Earl Monroe’s much-anticipated autobiography, “Earl the Pearl: My Story,” hit bookshelves this week, and the timing could have not been better. To end the regular season last Wednesday, the Knicks celebrated the 1973 NBA championship team in front of their home crowd, and for the player who once couldn’t have envisioned playing for “the enemy,” the night was certainly a reminder of how much he truly belonged in orange and blue.
Yet, that wasn’t the only reason for the timeliness of the book’s release. These current Knicks may not invoke images of the iconic ’70s teams, but in reading “My Story,” you’re reminded of the battles within that take place during the playoffs. As someone who played in three consecutive NBA Finals with both the Knicks (’72 and ’73) and Baltimore Bullets (’71), Monroe’s recall of those runs just might parallel park themselves to what’s taking place in this postseason.
For those who grew up watching Monroe dazzle the masses, the book will unquestionably bring you back to his playing days, yet, he shares much more on how “Black Jesus” came to be on the streets of South Philadelphia. For those of us who knew of the legend long after his final game, it’s as if he’s telling his tale for the very first time, which could explain why he felt the need to do the talking himself (with the help of Miles Davis autobiographer Quincy Troupe).
“People know of me but don’t really know me. This was my chance to share my story the way I knew it really happened,” Monroe expressed to TSFJ.
Monroe is as frank about his personal life as he is of his professional one. He was a ladies’ man, for sure, to the point that he’s open about fathering children with different women in his younger days. He talks about rebuilding his relationship with his absentee father while in college, dealing with the passing of his mother during the 1972-73 season, and even how he had to adjust to new teammates on and off the court when he was traded to New York.