The basketball legend helped the Knicks win their last NBA title in 1973. These days, he runs an R&B record label, and will soon open an eponymous seafood restaurant at Riverbank State Park on the Hudson.
How did you get your nickname?
The local newspaper would print my stats during my senior year—in the first ten games I was averaging 53 points a game. They called it “Earl’s pearls.”
Have you ever collected pearls?
Actually, I just bought my wife a lovely pearl bracelet. I used to have a pearl necklace with a black pearl hanging from the center, but we’re still looking for that—it got stolen about twenty years ago.
What do you think about the current Knicks lineup?
Jamal Crawford reminds me the most of myself, the way he goes to the basket. But they need leadership. They lose a lot of close games. Maybe someone will step up, but they don’t have anyone right now.
NBA players today get their moves from watching you on ESPN Classic. Where did you get your moves from?
I didn’t even start playing basketball until I was 14. I had a group on the playground—we called ourselves the Trotters—and we would go home every night and work and then come back and compare what we’d come up with. One of my other nicknames was “Thomas Edison,” because I invented so many moves.