Earl The Pearl: My Storyby Earl Monroe, Quincy Troupe, Bill Bradley (Foreword by)
Earl "The Pearl" Monroe is a basketball legend whose impact on the game transcends statistics, a player known as much for his unorthodox, "playground" style of play as his championship pedigree. Observers said that watching him play was like listening to jazz, his moves resembling freefloating improvisations. "I don't know what I'm going to do with the ball,"
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Earl Monroe played basketball on a different level than mere mortals, with jaw-dropping skill that glued me to my TV. I remember his battles with Clyde Frazier who was one of the top guards in the NBA. Earl explains how he attained such a high level of play and in the process conveys a message that many youths today can benefit from. Earl Monroe was not the greatest athlete in the world. He couldn't jump like Dr. J, didn't have the size or strength of Wilt Chamberlain or the speed and quickness of Calvin Murphy. What he had was a good head on his shoulders. He also had a loving mother who supported him and fueled his competitive spirit. On the playgrounds of Philadelphia, Earl watched other players and listened to what they said. He and his friends shared their knowledge to help each other improve, often passing along knowledge learned from older players. Earl tweaked different moves to fit his own abilities and practiced them until they became instinctive. He followed his mother's advice of keeping a notebook listing everyone who was better than him and seeking them out as competition. If he got beat, he figured out why, adjusted his game, and came back better than before. Once he could finally beat a player on his list, he crossed their name off and moved on to someone else. He became the best player on the playgrounds in Philadelphia. When he played organized ball, he listened to what his coaches said and integrated those fundamentals, such as screening and moving without the ball. His coach at Winston Salem State University, Clarence Gaines, made him sit the bench his first year of college even though he was the best player on the team. Earl didn't like that but he benefited from observing the rhythm of the game and thinking of how he could best impact the game on rare occasions that he saw playing time. He got better every year at Winston Salem and graduated after winning a national championship while leading the nation with 42 points per game and shooting over 60 per cent from the field. Earl refers to this recurring process of watching, listening, practicing, and testing new moves against top competition as the "science of the game" approach. Indeed as the great philosopher of science Karl Popper once said, "Good tests kill flawed theories; we remain alive to guess again". The scientific approach was Earl's way of life and he kept at it even after winning NBA rookie of the year. For example, he played in the Baker league during the NBA off-seasons, which was less scripted than NBA games and allowed him to test new moves against top professionals. He developed such a diverse repertoire that he could adjust to any style of play and be successful. He made the necessary adjustment and became an NBA champion after he was traded from the Bullets to the Knicks. I was surprised at how open and honest the book was in terms of Earl's personal life. I watch Earl sometimes when he is a commentator on Knicks telecasts and he is more reserved in that venue. Earl doesn't hold back in this book and allows readers to really get to know him. One point that floored me was that Earl has endured 30 operations as a result of his basketball playing days. His mother taught him not to complain about things like that and he lives life to the fullest. Although he may not realize it, he continues to inspire. Steve Watkins, Author of "Finding a Rhythm: Basketball Scoring Fundamentals Based on Science"