We never got to see Dwayne "Pearl" Washington play in person. In the 1980s, the Big East was still new and so was ESPN. Many of the forces that now drive college basketball were very new and to an extent, basketball was still pretty regional, at least in terms of who you played.
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Duke had one or two teams in a year that were solid, but it wasn't like now when games can be engineered with Michigan State or Kansas or UNLV for big ratings.
So we mostly saw the nascent Big East on TV. For us that meant seeing guys like Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullen on TV.
And Pearl Washington.
He was a wonderful, magical player. Think Randolph Childress mixed with a dash of Pete Maravich and you get the idea. He was really tough, really resourceful and he could pull a rabbit out of the hat at pretty much any time.
And as much as anyone we can think of, he bonded with his school. He loved Syracuse, and Syracuse loved him back.
So his death Wednesday of brain cancer hit Orange Nation hard. In terms of the intensity, the love back and forth, it reminds us a bit of Jim Valvano's passing.
Fifty-two is far too young to die. Yet in his 52 years, Pearl Washington did remarkable things publicly and privately. On the court he was flashy and creative; off the court he was sensitive and made friends with people that he seemingly had nothing in common with.
That's an interesting measure of a man.
You certainly can't measure anyone's worth by material possessions, but you can make an argument for how much they are loved. By that standard, Pearl Washington leaves us as a profoundly blessed man.
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