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Syracuse Basketball: Pearl Washington Passes Away At Age 52

Washington succumbed to his long battle with a brain tumor.


Dwayne "Pearl" Washington, one of the greatest basketball players in Syracuse history, died Wednesday, SU announced. He was 52.

Washington suffered a relapse of a brain tumor that was first detected back in 1995 in August, and was forced to undergo surgery. The tumor, however, was extremely large and malignant, and it could not be completely removed. In recent months, a GoFundMe was set up to help pay for his care.

Washington played at Syracuse from 1983 to 1986 and left a lasting legacy in his Orange career. He led Syracuse in both assists and steals in each of his three seasons, in addition to also leading the team in points his final season, with 17.3 per game. Despite only playing three years, he still ranks fourth all-time in assists with 637, and fifth all-time in steals with 220.

Having developed his game on the blacktop basketball courts of New York City, Washington played with a unique combination of style and flair that was extremely rare to see at the time, earning the nickname "Pearl" in honor of NBA All-Star Earl "The Pearl" Monroe.

Washington was famous for his devastating crossover that would leave both defenders and fans in disbelief.

Syracuse men's basketball coach Jim Boeheim was, and still is, enamored with Washington. Soon after the Big East Conference was formed in 1979, Washington arrived at Syracuse. Boeheim famously said he believed it was Washington who, in fact, made the Big East the bare-knuckle, legendary conference it would eventually become.

"Everybody says that Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin made the Big East, but I think Pearl made the league,'' Boeheim said. "They were the best players, but Pearl was the player that people turned out to see and turned on their TVs to watch.''

Washington had plenty of clutch performances, but none more famous than his half-court game-winning buzzer beater against No. 16 Boston College in 1984. If there was ever a single (non-championship) shot that catapulted a player, and a school, into greatness, it was this one.

It wasn't just his play on the court which helped him reach legendary status, it was his "I don't care what anything thinks" attitude off of it as well.

Former Harlem Globetrotters and junior college basketball star Arnold "A-Train" Bernard once tried to describe the style and elegance of Pearl Washington to SLAM magazine.

"Pearl showed up to King Towers on a motorcycle with a fly-a** girl on the back," Bernard said. "He drove right to half court, parked it, dropped 55 points, then left. That's some real legend s**t. I wanted to be just like him!"

Throughout this season, players and fans wore orange warmup shirts honoring Washington, the shirts were inscribed with "Pearl" on one side and "31" on the other.

The school released a short video honoring Washington. You can watch it below.