(CBS New York)– It’s been 45 years since the New York Knicks last won an NBA championship.
Gas was 38 cents per gallon, “The Sting” was the number one movie in America and Earl “The Pearl” Monroe was a starting guard for the Knicks.
The NBA Hall of Famer was traded from Baltimore to New York in 1971 and was part of one of the best back courts in league history with Walt “Clyde” Frazier. The transition to the Knicks was not an easy one for Monroe during his first few months.
“They were interesting,” said Monroe in a CBS Local studio interview. “Dave DeBusschere and Bill Bradley welcomed me. It was great to come in and get the approval of those guys.” When I talked to the coach Red Holzman, I told him I’d come off the bench. I came off the bench until the latter part of the season. I was hobbled most of that first year because I needed a bone spur surgery and didn’t get it until after the year.”
Monroe’s patience paid off as he helped the Knicks reach the NBA Finals in 1972 and win the title in 1973. The Knicks lost to the Lakers in five games in ’72 and then beat them in five games in ’73. Almost 50 years later, the 4x All-Star remembers the small details from that championship run.
“It’s the little things, like DeBusschere getting hurt in the last game in LA and then we go on and finally win,” said Monroe. “I was so tired after that series. I looked at my roommate Dean Meminger and said ‘Dean it’s over, lets go get room service.'”
The Knicks championship run is one of the many stories covered in Dan Klores’ new documentary called “Basketball: A Love Story” The Brooklyn native and Peabody Award winner created a 20 hour doc covering everything from the beginning of basketball with Dr. James Naismith to the Golden State Warriors dynasty.
The documentary puts the Knicks championships into historical perspective as well as the back court duo of Monroe and Frazier. The 73-year-old Monroe believes he and Clyde succeeded together because they did it alone first.
“What made us special is that we both had our own teams,” said Monroe. “We were able to come together and because of the respect we had for one another, we were able to make that situation work.”
Knicks fans still cling to the memories of Frazier and Monroe since the team’s last title was in the 1970s. While Monroe believes it’ll take time to make the Knicks a championship contender again, he likes the direction the team is headed.
“I think it’s a work in progress,” said Monroe. “You have a new coach and a new system. You’ve got a lot of new players and that’s going to take some time to gel. I think they’re going in the right direction. I think they compete hard and if that continues to happen, there’s something to build on.”