Moving on with our Fizz Four: Program Personalities edition, it’s time for No. 3, and gosh darn it, we got a good one.
No. 4 highlighted the commendable redemption story of a former Syracuse basketball great. Now, as we reach No. 3, the focus shifts to a prominent figure in program history whose script has already finished being written. The story, however, is one destined to outlive lifetimes.
That’s because the life, legacy and lasting impact of Dwayne ‘Pearl’ Washington will continue to be talked about, for generations to come.
No. 3: Dwayne ‘Pearl’ Washington
It’s not an everyday thing to see someone’s number put smackdab, at center-court in memoriam – especially in a place the like the Carrier Dome. The realm of Syracuse athletics has endured the loss of several legends, but only one has been honored in this particular way, and for good measure.
“There’s only just one guy like him. He was a really humble guy.”
“The most exciting player I’ve ever seen, yet the most humble, the most liked and he’ll be the most missed of anybody.’’
“There have been a lot of great players, but there’s only one Pearl.’’
All of the above are remarks made by Jim Boeheim after Pearl eventually succumbed to brain cancer at age 52.
Pearl’s on-court achievements bear recognition, no doubt about it. But, his personal story and the immense love he garnered from Orange faithful speak for themselves. After a three-year career on The Hill, Washington declared for the draft and was selected No. 13 overall in 1986. He played 194 games in the NBA with stints in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) as well, but Pearl eventually returned to Syracuse where he graduated with an exercise science degree in 2008.
Despite his distinguished career in Orange and undeniable connection to Syracuse, Pearl’s impact spanned far beyond just the Central New York Area. After Washington’s death, former SU athletic director Mark Coyle acknowledged the impact Pearl had on his childhood as young kid growing up in the state of Iowa.
Perhaps even more significantly, former SU coaching assistant Mike Hopkins – whose departure from came after 26 total seasons with the program between his coaching and playing days – credited Pearl as the one who inspired him to come all the way across the country (from Santa Ana, CA) to play at Syracuse in 1989.
In discussing Pearl’s legacy, we also can’t forget where he came from. Washington was a legend at Boys and Girls High School in Brooklyn, and has even been referred to by many as the most important recruit in the history of Syracuse basketball. Before he started “shaking and baking” for the Orange in 1983, Pearl was as beloved in New York City as he wound up being on The Hill. According to former high school teammates, Washington, was “dominant” on both ends of the court, but perhaps above all, has been described as a “selfless” teammate and friend.
When all is said and done, Pearl’s name will live on for eternity, and why wouldn’t it? From his lethal crossover and flashy play to his innate kindness and utter selflessness, each personal recount of Washington draws on those characteristics as consistent parallels. All told, there’s truly no denying who Pearl was as a person:
A captivating talent on the court, and a beloved man off it whose flash, charm and generously humble nature has impacted people of all ages, in all places.