The National Sports Media Association will honor Earl “The Pearl” Monroe next weekend as the second recipient of the Ann Lewallen Spencer Sports Connector Award. The award recognizes a person who has helped to connect the local community through sports. Monroe will be honored at a dinner in Winston-Salem, NC on April 26.
The star basketball player from Winston-Salem State University was the centerpiece of the 1967 national championship team. Monroe averaged an astronomical 41.5 points per game that season en route to a championship.
Bringing a city together
Monroe was so entertaining that WSSU had to move its home games from on campus to the Winston-Salem Memorial Coliseum. People of all races came out to cheer on the Rams and enjoy the prodigious Monroe. This era is looked back upon fondly as a moment that improved race relations in the city during a turbulent time in the American south.
The Baltimore Bullets selected Monroe with the number two overall pick later that year in the 1967 NBA Draft. A total of four HBCU players who appeared in at least one NBA game were drafted that year. Joining Monroe was Jimmy Jones from Grambling, teammate Jim Reid from WSSU and Ed Manning from Jackson State. Manning is the father of Danny Manning, the current head coach at Wake Forest University.
Monroe was named NBA Rookie of the Year and went on to win a championship with the New York Knicks. He would later be named one of the 50 greatest NBA Players of all time and elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1990.
Proceeds from ‘The Annie’ dinner provide essential support for the NSMA awards weekend. The Spencer/Pollard Fund allows college students to attend the awards weekend, where they take part in NSMA’s education program and benefit from the networking available with sports media professionals