• Siwale Chabala

Diamonds, PEARL and Crossovers

*Photo via Getty Images

New York City Basketball lost a legendary figure last week in Dwayne " the Pearl" Washington. Washington was nicknamed after Hall of Fame great, Earl Monroe aka Black Jesus (his basketball idol). Pearl is one of the greatest point guards to come out of NYC, and his incredible handles, flashy passes and flamboyant style made him worthy of the nickname. You can compare him to the iconic Prince Rogers Nelson, who passed a day later after Pearl. His genius and performances were on the basketball court though. Just like Prince, Washington was considered a shy and quiet person, until he stepped on his stage and all hell broke loose. He stood above his NYC class of "point gods" which included NBA legends Mark Jackson, Rod Strickland and Kenny Smith to name a few. Smith called him the first YouTube basketball player, saying, Washington was a big celebrity as a teenager because of his legendary play on the playgrounds and Boys and Girl's High School in Brooklyn. In 1983, Pearl Washington, as the number 1 overall high school player in the world committed to Syracuse University.

At the time, Syracuse Orange was not the mega big basketball school as an emotional Jim Boeheim stated upon hearing about Pearl's death. He called Washington's decision to go to Syracuse a moment that turned the Orange into a truly national basketball program. Pearl's biggest moment (among many) came during his freshman year at Syracuse, January 21, 1984, when he hit a half-court buzzer beating shot to steal victory from Boston University, 75-73. He was named First Team All Big East three times. He was the only player to achieve that in three years and was the Conference tournament's Most Valuable Player in 1986. Pearl Washington averaged 15.6 points and 6.7 assists per game. Along with Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin, Pearl was credited with making the Big East Conference what it is today. These players and their teams built rivalries that set the conference above the rest in college basketball.

*Photo via NY Post

Pearl Washington was drafted 13th in the 1986 NBA draft by the New Jersey Nets. Imagine if they were in Brooklyn at the time, it would have been perfect since Pearl grew up in Brownsville. Washington only lasted three years in the league, two were with the Nets and one year with the expansion team ( at the time) Miami Heat. He didn't make an impact in the league per se, but he was an inspiration to many young players coming up in New York City. Phenoms like Kenny Anderson, Rafter " skip to my lou" Alston, Ed "Booger" Smith and Jamal Tinsley patterned their games or took some moves from Mr Washington. The showmanship exhibited by these four legendary New York City "point gods" reminded everybody who grew up in the city of Pearl. He birthed a few legendary basketball "point gods," including one kid in the Chicago area.

When Pearl Washington was dribbling through traffic on a college basketball court like a cab driver weaving through the streets of New York City, a young man by the name of Tim Hardaway was paying close attention. You see, Pearl had a vicious crossover, before crossing over players was cool. It wasn't even named a crossover, it was just called a change of direction or shake and bake move. Hardaway came in the NBA, "crossing" every point guard that was in sight, especially John Stockton. Every player and fan were wondering what kind of move that was. It was the first time that anybody has seen such a move to get by defenders. The masses tried to name it the UTEP two-step, but it didn't really roll off the tongue. So some genius came up with the name, "Killer-Crossover", Perfect! People thought Hardaway got the "Killer-Crossover" from Isiah Thomas, since Thomas was originally from Chicago and he had the sickest handles ever but to everybody's surprise, Tim said he was inspired by Pearl Washington to create his crossover. Through emulating the great Pearl's crossover, he eventually came up with his own move. Allen Iverson came after Tim Hardaway, then Dwyane Wade after Al and now everybody has their own crossover. But the first player to ever do and innovate it will always be Mr Washington. Players have to pay homage to the Godfather of the Crossover, Pearl Washington. He will be missed for his contribution to basketball.

#NBA #NewYork #NBAHistory #Throwback