Biography Of Dr. J

Do you believe a man can fly? It almost seemed as though Michael Jordan could when playing basketball. Jordan said he wouldn't have had his vision playing if he hadn't watched Julius Erving.

"I would never have had the visions I had, if I hadn't seen Dr. J [Julius Erving] in his prime," so said Michael Jordan of some of his spectacular moves and ability when playing basketball.

When we watched Jordan play, his ease in scoring points at will many times and his spectacular moves, it almost seemed as though a man could fly. His Chicago Bulls won many championships and may have been the best team in decades. Many believe he was the greatest player in the history of basketball, but he wasn't the first person to make acrobatic moves.

Before Jordan there was Julius Erving, "Dr. J," who played for the Virginia Squires and New York Nets of the American Basketball Association and Philadelphia 76'ers of the National Basketball Association.

When Erving played it almost seemed as if he would start a dunk a midcourt. He was the first player to make some of the spectacular dunks and spin moves on a regular basis that are more common today. Dr. J may have also saved the old American Basketball Association from total extinction.

There were many other good players in the ABA. Some of them went on to star in the NBA and into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Dr. J, however, was the best and the main reason the old league didn't totally fold when players jumped between the two leagues and several ABA teams had trouble meeting payroll.

The two leagues had talked about merging before, but nobody wanted to lose some of the better players, especially Dr. J, to basketball. When the other teams folded and players went into an NBA draft, Erving's New York Nets, the Denver Rockets, San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers joined the NBA. The Nets became the New Jersey Nets and the Denver Rockets became the Denver Nuggets.

Before the merger some teams really did have problems. Erving's first team, the Virginia Squires, played in an arena that also had hockey. The problem of melting ice featured caused tremendous problems. The conditions were so bad one playoff game involving the Squires had to be cancelled. During one game Denver Rockets players wore winter coats and gloves when on the sidelines.

Erving had always been a good player, but nobody expected the spectacular accomplishments out of him they saw. He was a fundamentally sound player but not spectacular at Roosevelt High School in Roosevelt New York. He only played for two years as a small forward for the University of Massachusetts, averaging 26.3 points a game and 20.2 rebounds a game before joining the Squires for two years.

In his first game as a pro Dr. J dunked over 7' 2" Kentucky Colonels Center Artis Gillmore and 6'9" Dan Issel.

"Just doing that made me feel confident enough to go after anyone, anytime, without fear," Erving said later.

In his rookie year the Squires were 45-39 and made the playoffs. Although there were no championships for Erving that year, he averaged 27.3 points during the season and 33.3 in the playoffs. During his second season he averaged 31.9 points.

For his third season he got to play in a larger market after being traded to the Nets. For the next three seasons he was league MVP the first and third year and co-MVP the second season.

The Nets won the championship the first and third year, beating the Utah Stars the first season 4-1 and the Denver Rockets 4-2 in the final season of the ABA.

Dr. J scored 27.4 points a game during the first championship year, a 55-29 season. He was sixth in assists, third in steals and blocked shots. During the second championship season he scored 34.7 points a game in the playoffs and 29.3 points during the regular season, to win the scoring title.

Erving was known for several things: his grace as a player and person; his ability to score points; coolness under pressure and his spectacular dunks and spin moves. He sometimes swooshed the ball into the basket over an opposing player with his back to the basket.

In the ABA's final season he won the first slam dunk contest in the all star game over Gilmore, David Thompson, Larry Kenon and future hall of fame star George Gervin. The NBA has since had slam dunk contests in its all star game.

"Dr. J to me was the NBA," said Detroit Pistons star Grant Hill. "Growing up all of us would go to our baskets in our rooms and try to be Dr. J. But we couldn't even do his stuff on our Nerf baskets."

"He [Erving] handles a basketball the way the average person handles a tennis ball," Marty Bell, author of "The Legend of Dr. J, The Story of Julis Erving," said in his book. "He can raise one arm above another player's two

outstretched arms and snatch the ball as though

he's taking a handful of popcorn."

It didn't matter who guarded Dr. J. In the first game in the championship game against the Rockets he was guarded by defensive whiz and future hall of famer and Philadelphia teammate Bobby Jones to no avail. Erving made a 21 foot basket for the victory and scored 45 for the game.

Erving, who was voted one of the NBA' best 50 players of all time, was no less impressive in 11 seasons with the NBA's Philadelphia 76'ers. In his first season he was MVP of the all star game and scored 21.6 points a game. His team was 50-32 but lost the championship to Bill Walton and Portland 4-2 after winning the first two games. Philadelphia had paid the Nets $3 million for Dr. J and paid Erving $3 million.

Philadelphia was a constant contender with Erving. The 76er's lost the championship in 1979-1980 to Magic Johnson and the Lakers 4-2. His team was 59-23 that year and he scored 26.9 points a game.

Dr. J was MVP of the league in 1980-1981. He scored 24.6 points a game and had 364 assists and 173 steals. His team was 62-20 but lost the championship to Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics 4-3.

In 1981-1982, however, Erving and his team won the championship in 4 straight over Los Angeles. Some believe it was one of history's best teams.

Dr. J scored 30,026 points for his career. Only Wilt Chamberlin and Kareem Abdul Jabar ever scored more. No other players ever scored as many as 30,000. He was elected to the NBA Hall of Fame in 1993.

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