NY Knicks: The tale of two different No. 15 jersey retirements

When you think about No. 15 and the New York Knicks, who comes to mind? Or should I say, what two players come to mind? New York has not one, but two players that have their No. 15 jerseys retired in the rafters at Madison Square Garden. They are Dick McGuire and Earl “The Pearl” Monroe.

Although Monroe played for the Knicks 15 years after McGuire, his jersey was retired six years before McGuire’s.

The New York Knicks retired Dick McGuire and Earl Monroe’s No. 15 jerseys.

This season, Monroe was given the huge honor of being named to the NBA’s top-75 team in honor of the league’s 75th anniversary. That was expected, considering that he was named to the 50th Anniversary Team in 1996.

Both guards played a vital part in New York’s storied history, which is why the organization decided to retire No. 15 twice – both were so nice that the Knicks had to do it twice.

Dick McGuire (PG) – 1949 to 1957

St. John’s McGuire was drafted by New York 73 years ago with the No. 7 overall pick in 1949, just in time for the Knicks’ fourth season in the NBA.

The New York City native made an immediate impact in his first season, playing in 68 games, averaging 8.6 points and 5.7 assists. All in all, he recorded what was a then team-high total of 386 assists.

In 1951, he was named to the All-NBA Second Team. That same year, he earned his first All-Star nod after averaging a career-high 9.1 points and 6.1 assists while shooting 43% from the field.

McGuire would go on to be named an All-Star four more times with the Knicks in 1952, 1954, 1955, and 1956. He led New York to three NBA Finals.

To this day, he sits at No. 3 in all-time assists for the franchise at 2,950 behind Mark Jackson (4,005) and Walt “Clyde” Frazier (4,971).

Out of the 11 seasons that he spent in the league, eight of those were in New York. He concluded his professional career with three seasons in Detroit (1957-60), including becoming a player-coach with the Pistons in his final year.

McQuire was Detroit’s head coach from 1960-63 and in 1965, he took over for the Knicks for three seasons before stepping away so that Red Holzman could take over.

In 1992, his jersey was retired by New York and a year later, he was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Massachusetts. McQuire and his brother Al, who also played for the Knicks, are the only pair of siblings that have been inducted into the legendary Hall of Fame.

In 2010, McQuire passed away in Huntington, N.Y. at the age of 84. At the time of his death, he was serving as a senior consultant with the Knicks. His legend forever lives on within the walls of The Mecca.

Earl Monroe (SG/PG) – 1971 to 1980

Monroe, a product of Winston-Salem State University, was drafted by the Baltimore Bullets (now the Washington Wizards) with the No. 2 overall pick in 1967. He spent nearly six years with the Bullets before being traded to the Knicks in 1971.

At the time, being traded to New York was a shock, given how the two teams were fierce enemies and went up against one another in the playoffs for six consecutive seasons (1969-1974).

He struggled to coexist with Frazier at first, but it didn’t take long before the two were referred to as the “Rolls Royce backcourt.”

In 1972-73, he averaged 15.5 points as he and Frazier led the Knicks to an NBA title three years after the organization won its first one. Not that fans need the reminder, but 49 years ago was the last time that New York won a championship.

In 1975, Monroe was named an All-Star for the third time in his career. That season, he averaged 20.9 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game while shooting 45.7% from the floor.

Two years later, he received the accolade for a fourth and final time after averaging 19.9 points, 4.8 assists, and 2.9 rebounds per game, along with shooting a career-high 51.7% from the field.

Monroe stepped away from the game after the 1979-80 season and his No. 15 jersey was retired on Mar. 1, 1986. His No. 10 jersey was retired by Baltimore. He was named to the Hall of Fame in 1989.

The 77-year-old spends his time working in the New York City community. Most recently on Aug. 30, 2021, he opened the Earl Monroe New Renaissance School in the Bronx. What more could you ask for from one of the best players to suit up for the Knicks?

Between McGuire and Monroe, the only regret that New York should have is that the current roster doesn’t have someone that can facilitate the offense like McGuire, or a player that can get it done on both ends like Monroe.