The nicknames read like an old Harlem Globetrotter’s roster sheet mixed with a “So You’re Interested In Voodoo?” instruction booklet: Black Jesus, The Pearl, Black Magic. Earl Monroe deserved them all. In the 1970’s he was a dominant fixture in New York basketball, leading the Knicks to a championship in 1973 and playing an integral role on one of basketball’s all-time great teams. Monroe was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1990, and selected as a member of the league’s 50 greatest players in 1996.
Yesterday, Mr. Monroe spoke with me about the NBA, New York’s banner raising odds, and The People’s Games, a new sports concept that offers athletes the opportunity to represent their cities in competition against other regions in a battle to prove who has the best athletes in various sports.
The first two cities featured in the event will be New York and Los Angeles. Two 20 player basketball teams from each coast will then take things to the court to decide which city has the better talent. Tryouts for the New York team will be headed by Monroe on March 13, and in regards to player requirements more information can be found at their website. Los Angeles will be coached by former UCLA star Lucius Allen.
A little more information:
The People’s Games will be conducted in partnership with the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation & Parks and in coordination with the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. A portion of the proceeds from The People’s Games will be donated to the local recreation and parks departments in participating cities. In the future, The People’s Games intends to announce additional competitive platforms and participating cities.
Armyan Bernstein, award-winning producer and Chairman of Beacon Pictures, is the Founder and Chairman of The People’s Games. Terry Jastrow, seven-time Emmy Award winner, who has produced and directed six Olympic Games, is the Commissioner and Executive Producer of The People’s Games.
“We believe there are great athletes out there who, for one reason or another, never got a chance to have their moment in the spotlight,” says Bernstein. “This is the opportunity for them to play for their families, communities and cities. They are playing for the love of the game rather than personal glory and will come from every walk of life. All that matters is that they got game!”
Onto the The Pearl’s wise words:
On Why He’s Involved In The People’s Games:
This thing is completely funded and conceptuatlized by [Bernstein and Jastrow]. This is something that they wanted to keep as pure as possible and make sure they weren’t going to be influenced by sponsors. It’s being done this way so we can go back to the time when we played for the love of the game and the thrill of victory. It’s all about bragging rights. [New York] is just more hardcore and that’s going to be our biggest advantage. I think we’ve got a lot of talent in New York. I think that we play a different type of brand of basketball than they do on the west coast; we’re a little more physical and it’s a little more demanding on our guys and I think we’ll come out victorious. The great things about the People’s Games is it gives people from all walks of life the forum to compete.
On What The Knicks Need:
Well the most glaring thing I feel they need is a defensive presence underneath. And a lot more rebounding. If they were to get that with the role players who are starting to establish themselves, they’ll be in good position to start contending. You can’t go somewhere and get out rebounded every night and rely on your offense. You’ve also got to be able to stop people.
On Whether Any Current Player Reminds Him Of A Young Pearl:
(Laughing) Not one iota. When I look out and I see guys, I see all the stuff that I used to do just done in a different way. My game is kind of unique. Nobody was playing that way so the things that I did were never seen before. So now those things are done everyday, but they’re just not done everyday with style and grace.
On His Championship Knick Team Matching Up With The Squads Of Today:
The Knick team that won the championship could be very competitive with any team today mainly because we played defense, we had great outside shooters. We were very competitive in that way and I think the most intangible part of it all was we were a thinking group. Everybody was a veteran and they understood the game. With all the young guys who have come into the league, that’s the most glaring thing that’s missing; players who come into the league and don’t know how to play.
On The Current “Super Team” Trend:
I think for whichever city that those guys are playing in, I think that’s a good thing. Everything comes in phases. Pretty soon everything will spread itself out. At one time everyone wanted to come to New York, then ESPN came and guys realized it wasn’t important to go to New York in order for people to know who you are. I don’t think it’s something that will continue because if you have five teams with all the players then you aren’t going to have a league.
On The Knicks Championship Chances This Year:
The Knicks have no chance at winning a championship right now. Like I said, you need an inside presence, rebounding of the ball, and good interior defense. That’s what’s going to propel the team.
On Who The League’s Best Player And Team Are:
Prior to the All-Star game, I would say Kobe Bryant because he’s won all the championships and what not, but when you look out, LeBron James is probably the biggest force in the game as we speak. As far as the team, right now I’d still have to go with…I don’t know how Boston will react to losing Kendrick. But Boston and Miami.