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Earl Monroe – 1972-’73 Topps #142

Vernon Earl Monroe (born November 21, 1944, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is an American former professional basketball player known for his flamboyant dribbling, passing, and play-making. He was nicknamed “Earl the Pearl”. From an early age, Monroe was a playground legend. His high school teammates at John Bartram High School called him “Thomas Edison” because of the many moves he invented. Monroe rose to prominence at a national level while playing basketball at then Division II Winston-Salem State University, located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Under the coaching of Hall of Fame coach Clarence “Big House” Gaines, Monroe averaged 7.1 points his freshman year, 23.2 points as a sophomore, 29.8 points as a junior and an amazing 41.5 points his senior year. In 1967, he earned NCAA College Division Player of the Year honors and led the Rams to the NCAA College Division Championship.
In 1971, Monroe was traded to the New York Knicks and formed what was known as the “Rolls Royce Backcourt” with the equally flamboyant Walt Frazier. While there were initial questions as to whether Monroe and Frazier could coexist as teammates, the duo eventually meshed to become one of the most effective guard combinations of all time, leading the Knicks to the 1973 NBA championship. That pairing is one of few backcourts ever to feature two Hall of Famers and NBA 50th Anniversary Team members. A four-time NBA All-Star, Monroe retired after the 1980 season due to serious knee injuries, which had plagued him throughout his career. He had played 926 NBA career games, scored 17,454 total points (18.8 ppg) and dished out 3,594 assists. Monroe had his number 15 jersey retired by the Knicks on March 1, 1986. Even Monroe admits that his flowing, fluid, silky-smooth on-court style of play was unique. He has said: “You know, I watch the games and even now I never see anyone who reminds me of me, the way I played.”

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