WASHINGTON -- It took 36 years for the Washington Wizards to
put "The Pearl" in the rafters.
The Wizards will retire Earl Monroe's No. 10 jersey on Dec. 1,
honoring the guard whose school-yard moves changed the NBA. Monroe
played four full seasons with the Wizards' predecessors -- the
Baltimore Bullets -- before he was traded to the New York Knicks in
"When I went to New York, I had to give up my No. 10," Monroe
said Tuesday before the Wizards' game against the Philadelphia
76ers, "so finally getting my No. 10 back has brought me full
Monroe spent nearly nine seasons with the Knicks and won a
championship in New York, but he opted to go into the Hall of Fame
in 1990 in Bullets orange. His No. 15 Knicks jersey has been in the
rafters at Madison Square Garden since 1986, and he was selected to
the NBA's 50th anniversary all-time team in 1996.
Monroe said he regretted that he had to leave the Bullets for
the dreaded Knicks. The teams had developed an intense playoff
rivalry, and Baltimore had come out on top in a seven-game series
in 1971 and went on to the NBA Finals.
But Monroe and the Bullets soon bickered over salary, and he
considered defecting to the ABA before he was traded to New York
early in the 1971-72 season. He retired in 1980.
"For a long time, even though I was playing in New York, I
never felt as though people thought I was a real Knick, per se,"
Monroe said. "When people think of me, they identify me with the
Baltimore Bullets and then the Knicks."
The Wizards have been discussing the possibility of retiring
Monroe's jersey for years, and they decided to do it in conjunction
with next month's 10th anniversary of the Verizon Center.
"Very few players in this game, you can say that they changed
the game, they revolutionized the game, and that's what he did,"
Wizards president of basketball operations Ernie Grunfeld said.
"With his spin move, with his freeze move, the herky-jerky move
where he froze his opponent and got his jump shot off, that was
just what everyone tried to do on the playground."
Monroe's jersey will be the fourth to be retired by the
franchise. The others are Wes Unseld's No. 41, Elvin Hayes' No. 11
and Gus Johnson's No. 25.