Ray Allen is Jesus Shuttlesworth. Yeah, he’s probably more famous (or infamous depending on who you’re rooting for) as the long ball launching Ray Allen who’ll burn your ass on any given playoff night. But to me- Ray Allen is Jesus Shuttlesworth, the main character from the 1998 sports drama He Got Game. I say that because as I watch the Celtic two-guard hold the crippled defending champs up with buzzer beating heroics, my real introduction to Earl “the Pearl” Monroe as a kid came from that Spike Lee joint. Denzel Washington introduced me to the Hall of Famer when he explained to his movie son that his name wasn’t inspired by the biblical savior but rather, “Black Jesus”, Monroe’s original moniker before he was “The Pearl” [click here to watch that movie scene]. Ray Allen is Jesus Shuttlesworth. Earl Monroe is the basketball deity that he was named after. Black Jesus was kind of a big deal.
Vernon Earl Monroe -the inventor of the spin move, one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players, the former Baltimore Bullet star who later helped bring the only other NBA championship to Madison Square Garden as part of the New York Knicks flamboyant “Rolls Royce Backcourt” with Walt Frazier- has traded his spin moves for music spins since walking off of the court over some 20 plus years ago. Show business has been keeping the NBA legend’s basketball jones at bay since his jerseys (yeah plural) were lifted into the rafters and while he took a little time away from the music Monroe was pulled back in after meeting rapper/singer Chinablak. Her Missy Elliot meets Macy Gray vibe was enough to motivate the Philly native to jump back in the game and start Reverse Spin Records where he made Chinablak his flagship artist.
Earl Monroe spoke with the Urban Daily and we chatted about the music world he ventured into since hanging up the sneaks and, of course, the NBA Playoffs had to work it’s way into the conversation.
In your case, what has the life of a retired NBA legend consisted of after basketball?
I’ve taken some courses but mainly it’s been involved in entertainment. Just before I retired I had an entertainment company and we managed artists like Maurice Starr and then we were hooked up with New Kids on the Block, New Edition and Tevin Campbell. After that I did off-Broadway musicals. One in particular was Bones, which featured people like Loretta Divine, Robert Townson, Kiki Shepard who went on the the Apollo. We had a lot of people at that time that started out from that production. And after that I formed Pretty Pearl Records. So pretty much everything I have done was in the entertainment industry. And after that we were distributed by Warner Brothers, we had a deal with Electra Records and so forth and so on. And after that I just got out of the business up until a few years ago [when] I met China Blak. She was so intriguing and so full of energy that I got back into the business with where we stand right now.
So are you following the NBA playoffs right now?
Off and on. I followed the first few games or what not. I looked at the TV this morning and realized that I missed a few games. I forgot that this was “40 Games in 40 Nights” [laughs]. I’m looking for L.A. and the way it’s looking now, Cleveland will be in the finals.
Who are you pulling for?
I’m pulling for the L.A. Lakers because of Kobe. I knew his dad. We played against each other. We’re all from Philadelphia. So I’m always pulling for those guys. I played with [Lakers head coach] Phil Jackson and Jimmy Clemons, who is the assistant coach. On the other end of the spectrum, I just like what LeBron brings to the game so I wouldn’t be mad at the fact they won.
You mentioned Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. How would you compare the players and the way the game is played today with when you were on the court?
Well, the game is just a little more swifter than when I was playing. Guys can jump higher and so forth. I think the equalization of it is that the guys I was playing with had a habit of understanding the game a little better than the guys of today. That’s due to the advent of the younger guys coming in from high school or playing one year of college, or what not. When I played we had to be in college for four years, so there was a lot more maturity when we got into the league. I think that really sets us apart from the guys of today- not taking anything away from these guy today. They are tremendous athletes.
What the difference, for you, between the business aspects of sports and entertainment?
I think that it’s all in who you’re dealing with. It’s all about the camaraderie. Everything is about winning and you got people that are willing to be together to win. Especially today when music isn’t what it used to be. It’s not like the great album market that everybody was into like 10 years ago. It’s a singles market today so there’s been a big turn with people getting rich from music- that’s not happening anymore. You gotta expand and be more than just a rapper or singer to make it in this business.
Chinablak’s Single- “Hey Now”