How the KKK helped Earl “The Pearl” Monroe become a Knicks legend (and not a Pacer)

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If you talk about players I love to watch old footage of on YouTube, Earl “The Pearl” Monroe is near the top of the list. He had smooth one-on-one moves with a playground feel to his game that was very entertaining. He was a perfect fit in New York.

Monroe has a new book coming out on Tuesday where he talks in detail about his career. That includes how he forced his way out of Washington to ultimately end up with the Knicks.

But before New York called he almost ended up in the ABA with the Pacers, something he talks about in an excerpt from the book published on Deadspin Monday. Monroe wasn’t sold on the deal at first but started to warm up to it. There was a trade offer on the table and Monroe went to Indiana to meet the players.

So I went to the game and the Pacers won. Then, after the game, I went back to meet the Pacers’ players in the locker room. I liked them, too. But then, after they had showered and dressed, all the black players reached up over their lockers and starting bringing guns down. I was shocked to see this and asked, “Why do you guys have guns?”

“They got Ku Klux Klan everywhere around here outside Indianapolis and in the city, too,” one of the players said. “So we got guns to protect ourselves.”

That killed that trade. As you might expect.

Monroe held out for a few more days (he had left the team) and eventually was traded to the Knicks. And the rest is history.