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Pearl Washington, Syracuse basketball legend, dies

Pearl Washington, Syracuse basketball legend, dies

Beloved Orange point guard had brain tumor
Pearl Washington, Syracuse basketball legend, dies
Syracuse University's Dwayne "Pearl" Washington (31) goes to the basket in front of St. John's Walter Berry (21) during the men's Big East basketball tournament championship game at Madison Square Garden in New York, March 8, 1986.
Photographer: Larry Morris/The New York Times

Dwayne "Pearl" Washington, a beloved Syracuse basketball star in the 1980s who went on to play in the NBA, has died after a long battle with a brain tumor. He was 52.

A schoolyard legend from Brooklyn, the slick point guard played at Syracuse from 1983-86, during the heights of the Big East in an era that overlapped Patrick Ewing (Georgetown) and Chris Mullin (St. John's). Washington led Syracuse to the NCAAs all three years he played, and still ranks in the top 5 all-time on the school's list for assists and steals, and in the top 25 for scoring.

"There was no better guy and there's nobody who has meant more to our basketball program than Dwayne Washington," longtime coach Jim Boeheim said, according to the university's website.

But it was Washington's dramatic style that endeared him to fans, from his dizzying ball-handling and spin moves to electric drives.

A signature moment for the Boys and Girls High School product and MVP of the McDonald's High School All-American Game came against Boston College in the Carrier Dome his freshman year. With the score tied at 73, Washington shot from center court at the buzzer, raised his arms and headed to the players' tunnel -- before the ball went in for the game-winner.

Drafted 13th overall by the New Jersey Nets, Washington did not measure up as a pro, playing only three years in the NBA and two in the Continental Basketball Association before retiring.

But he always remained a fan favorite in Syracuse, and in 1996 his No. 31 jersey was retired.

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