Heat pay tribute to Pearl Washington
MIAMI (AP) Pearl Washington once was the leading scorer in Miami Heat franchise history.
It was after one game, but technically correct nonetheless.
Washington scored a team-high 16 points in the first game the Heat ever played, a 111-91 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 5, 1988. He was with the team for only that inaugural season, yet the Heat still mourned him Wednesday after the former Syracuse University star died from brain cancer.
Washington was 52.
''Too early. Way too early,'' said Ron Rothstein, the coach of that first Heat team. ''I wish his family the best.''
Washington played in 54 games with the Heat, in what was his third and final season in the NBA. With Miami he averaged 7.6 points; in three NBA seasons with the Heat and the New Jersey Nets he averaged 8.6 points in 194 games.
''I remember watching him in high school,'' Rothstein said. ''He dominated a game from the backcourt at both ends of the floor. He was a man among boys.''
The Heat paid tribute with a moment of silence before their playoff game against the Charlotte Hornets. They showed an image of Washington on the video screens throughout the arena as well as some of his NBA and Syracuse highlights - including his halfcourt shot to win a game against Boston College in 1984, the one where he ran right out of the arena afterward as fans flooded the court in celebration.
''The NBA and the Heat family is saddened by the loss,'' public address announcer Michael Baiamonte said.
Washington was in Miami at various times after his Heat playing days, including a trip to the team's 20-year reunion.
''He was a great guy,'' said Heat broadcaster Tony Fiorentino, an assistant coach on that inaugural Miami team. ''Forget about basketball. He was just a great guy. He fit right in to the Heat family.''
Fiorentino said he remembered seeing Washington at a camp in his high school days, where three other campers tried to knock away his dribble. Six hands kept flailing and missing, all their efforts futile against Washington.
''He was a magician with the basketball,'' Fiorentino said.