Today, I had the opportunity to interview NBA Hall of Famer and Knicks legend, Earl ‘The Pearl’ Monroe. Mr. Monroe is helping start a new venture deemed, ‘The People’s Games’. ‘The People’s Games’ is an opportunity where New York City residents can try out for a basketball team coached by Monroe and ultimately compete against a Los Angeles team led by UCLA great, Lucius Allen. Outside of discussing ‘The People’s Games” with Mr. Monroe, I asked him an array of questions about the Knicks and the NBA in general..

Matt Vereb: Of all cities, what makes representing New York City basketball so alluring in your eyes?

Earl Monroe: New York is bottom line, the Mecca of Basketball. There are basketball hoops on every corner of the city. Being a New York basketball player, professional or not, you have this identity about the brand of basketball we play here. With ‘The People’s Game’, we are giving the opportunity to everyday, non-professional athletes to compete and earn a spot on our squad. That makes it so alluring.

MV: How’d you get involved with The People’s Game?

EM: Lucius Allen contacted me about it because he knows that I realize what the people go through on an everyday basis. Ultimately, I wanted to give back to New York City and I believe that this contest will open a lot of eyes in the city. There’s no television contract in place, but you can follow all of the action on the our website, www.peoplesgames.com.

MV: How did you get your two nicknames, ‘The Pearl’ and ‘Black Jesus’?

EM: Haha. I got ‘The Pearl’ back in college when I was averaging 50 PPG. In a newspaper, a reporter had a list of all of my scoring accomplishments and titled them as ‘Earl’s Pearls’.

I got the nickname ‘Black Jesus’ because I was always expected to lead my team to the Promise Land!

MV: Given the current Knick roster, do you forsee any long-term issues with shot distribution between Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire?

EM: I don’t see any potential issues because when crunch time comes, one of these two guys are going to get the ball. I know that there will be less shots for (Landry) Fields, Toney (Douglas), etc, but having two bonafide scoring studs is a good start for the Knicks.

MV: How do you feel about the formation of ‘Super Teams’ in the NBA? Good or Bad for the sport?

EM: Ultimately, I think it’s good for the NBA. We have to remember too that these things happen in phases and new talent enters the league every year. I think things will begin to spread out more in the future when some of the solid, older players retire.

MV:Can a Knick team who surrenders 109 PPG and virtually plays no defense, win an NBA title?

EM: Absolutely not. The Knicks need rebounding and an inside presence. The Knicks can’t continually get out rebounded every night and expect to win these games. It’s just not going to happen for them.

MV: If you had to choose one free agent to add to the Knicks in the next two seasons, who would it be and why?

EM: Dwight Howard. No question. Adding Howard gives the Knicks toughness, an anchor on the defensive end, and a clear advantage over every other center in the league.

MV: Who is the NBA’s best team and best player right now?

EM: *After wavering for a minute or so* I still think the Celtics are the best team, but I need to see how they play without Kendrick Perkins first. Miami is good too, but they don’t have enough size. Out West, I still think the Lakers are the team to beat and could take down the Spurs in a seven game series.

Kobe is still the best player in the NBA. I’d say that LeBron is the biggest ‘force’ in the league, though……

Unlike professional sports where star players rarely come from the city they play for, participants in The People’s Games must be a resident of the city they are representing, 18 years of age or older, and have no professional experience. Competitors will be selected through neighborhood tryouts to create teams which reflect the heart and soul of the city.

Open tryouts will begin at various locations on Sunday, March 13.  New York City tryouts will take place in the following locations:

  • Bronx: St. Mary’s Recreation Center, 450 St. Ann’s Avenue, Bronx, NY 10454
  • Brooklyn: St. John’s Recreation Center, 1251 Prospect Place, Brooklyn, NY 11213
  • Manhattan & Staten Island: Alfred E. Smith Recreation Center, 80 Catherine Street, New York, NY 10038
  • Queens: Al Oerter Recreation Center, 131-40 Fowler Avenue, Flushing, NY 11355

After the first round of tryouts, Monroe and his coaching staff will select the 100 best players to return on March 20th for a second tryout. After the March 20th tryouts, Monroe will keep the 40 best. The final tryout occurs on March 27th where Monroe will select his 20 player team.

For more information, the website for the event is: Peoples Games