Pro Legends of Streetball: Earl Monroe
With a name like “Black Jesus” you know he had to be good. Also known as “The Pearl,” Earl Monroe built a storied playing career that started on the blacktops of Philadelphia and ended in the basketball Hall of Fame. The Washington Bullets took him second overall in the 1967 NBA draft, but it was with the New York Knicks that Monroe cemented his legacy. During his time at MSG, Earl went to two NBA All-Star Games and helped bring a championship to the world’s most famous arena. Ask anyone who knows the history of “Black Jesus” though, and they’ll tell you that his best moments came not in the NBA, but on the outdoor courts of New York City and Philadelphia.
While still in high school, Monroe became a fixture of Philly’s famed Baker League. Not content just to dominate the streets of the City of Brotherly Love, Earl and the Baker boys would often swing up to NYC’s Rucker Park to take on the Big Apple’s best. In one such game, “Black Jesus” and the Baker All-Stars battled a Rucker Park pro tournament team that featured NBA icon Kareem Abdul Jabbar (a match-up that Kareem listed as one of the most memorable of his streetball playing career). Monroe garnered respect in both cities, and invented so many moves during his amateur days that people started calling him “Thomas Edison.” You can judge a street legend by the number of his nicknames, and few can match the legacy of Earl “The Pearl/Black Jesus/Thomas Edison/Black Magic” Monroe.