Dwayne “Pearl” Washington died at the age of 52 after a battle with brain cancer, according to Syracuse University. The basketball legend has been honored throughout much of the season with the team wearing warm-up shirts with his name across the front and his number 31 on the back.
He secured his place in Syracuse history as a freshman when he drained a half-court buzzer beater to beat Boston College at the Carrier Dome in the 1983-84 season. He would go on to have an incredible career at SU through the 1985-86 season.
Quite possibly, Washington’s fame grew to an even greater level because his rise at Syracuse University coincided with the rise of the famous Big East Conference. He was the face of the Syracuse program going up against Patrick Ewing of Georgetown and Chris Mullin at St. John’s.
Jim Boeheim, who has always called Washington by his given name, Dwayne, has often credited Washington with really putting Syracuse on the national stage. After Syracuse’s win over Georgia Tech on January 29th, Boeheim talked about Washington and his lasting legacy.
“There was no better guy and there’s nobody who has meant more to our basketball program than Dwayne Washington.”
Syracuse entered his freshman season unranked. After he hit the buzzer beater against Boston College, Syracuse jumped into the top 20 in the polls. After that moment, Syracuse was in the top 20 for the rest of his career.
With the rise of Pearl and the rise of the Big East, Syracuse basketball grew to new heights. The Carrier Dome become one of the premier venues in the nation, with crowds of over 25,000 filing into the football stadium turned basketball court on a regular basis.
Washington went on to be drafted 13th overall by the New Jersey Nets in the 1986 NBA Draft. After three seasons in the NBA, Washington went to the CBA, where he played two more seasons before ultimately retiring, saying he lost his love for the game.
But, at that moment, Washington didn’t fade away. He returned to the place that had become home, the place where he was revered above all others. He came back to Syracuse and got his degree. He got his number 31 hung in the rafters of the building he helped make famous. He became, and always will be, a favorite son of Syracuse University.
He will forever be, a legend.