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Julius Erving

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One of the NBA's first superstars Julius Erving's high flying hard powered style brought the NBA and basketball to levels previously unheard of. Julius Erving was born in Hempstead New York in 1950. He grew up in a housing project, the son of a single mother, with two siblings. His father having left when he was three his mother remarried, and they moved to nearby Roosevelt, New York. His mother wanted his children to have a better life, and she realized that basketball might be a way out for his young son. Before going to high school Erving averaged 11 points a game with his Salvation Army team. At Roosevelt High school he began to flourish, competing in statewide tournaments, getting named on many occasions to various all Long Island teams, and receiving other different awards. Erving averages 26 points and 20 rebounds, one of the few players in NCAA History to average 20 of both statistics. In a time when few players left college early to join the Pros Julius Erving did just that. He signed with the ABA's Virginia Squires, a league which was not opposed to players entering professional basketball early. He signed with the Atlanta Hawks in 1973, but legal entanglements prevented him from playing with the team, as well as the Milwaukee Bucks, which also drafted him. By this time the ABA was talking about a merger with the NBA, but Oscar Robertson's player union was preventing this from taking place. The ABA was taking a lot of top flight players from college who would have had excellent careers in the NBA, as well as taking current NBA players and placing them on ABA rosters. For a time it seemed as though the NBA would submerge in favor of the ABA. However extremely lackluster ABA markets, unstable ownership, too many team moves, and lackluster ABA markets proved too much for the league. After starting with the Squires, Erving was traded to the Nets. He became an incredible scorer, an incredible talent, and considered to possibly be the most explosive basketball players period, he won a few championships, scoring titles, and was one of the all around best players in basketball. By 1976 the ABA was no longer a significant force, teams collapsed, owners and players were both disgruntled, and the ABA didn't have any significant talent to market, except for Dr. J. What is not clear is how he got his nickname, but it is thought that as a doctor he would cure anyone who thought they could take him on. It was a nickname he had since college. In a contractual dispute with his team he was bought by the Philadelphia, for a then record then 3 million. Erving had been a basketball icon for years, with his Afro, his intense style, and his in your face on the court manor. It played very well with his fans, and would become a staple in Philadelphia, joining a high flying spectacular team of Darryl Dawkins, Lloyd B. Free, and others. The team went to a 50-32 record, the undoubted leader of his team. However the spectacular team yet again fell to fundamentals. Erving advanced his team to the finals, winning the first two. Erving and his teammates has said the series was over before they started. However their opponents the Portland Trailblazers, led by Bill Walton. Walton led his team to four straight finals victories to win the teams first ever finals. For the next two years the Sixers became a fun team to watch, and they would go deep into the playoffs routinely, but they never could win. By 1979 the NBA was in crisis, ratings, and attendance were down. The NBA was perceived to be too black, too into drugs, and disco, and was viewed as too much for one part of society, no doubt a result of bigotry, as a large percentage of players in the NBA were black. But that year would be a watershed year for the NBA. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson entered, and Erving changed his image. He cut of his afro, made his image a little more clean, took the in your face element out of his game, but remained none-the-less spectacular. While he was a player with a lot of flair a lot of observers said his game was not nearly as flaring as it was in the ABA. But in 1980 Erving would rekindle an old rivalry, and start a new one. The old one came against arch-rival Boston, led by Larry Bird. That was a crucial match-up as both players were the undoubted leaders of their teams, and both were small forwards. But the Sixers were revamped as well, a little less spectacle, and a little more fundamental. This was obvious in new point guard Maurice Cheeks and defensive minded six man Bobby Jones. While the team beat Boston, they were no match for the Mgic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jamaal Wilkes, and the L.A. Lakers in the finals losing in six. Next year Philadelphia had the best record in the NBA, split with Boston. L.A. suffered that year and was eliminated in the first round, so everyone knew that Philadelphia and Boston would meet in the Conference finals, and more than likely would win the finals. The matchup was one of the classics. Philadelphia was now a much more fundamental team, while the Celtics were now revamped with new big men Kevin McHale and Robert Parish. In the Boston Garden the series was split in the first two games. The next two in Philadelphia's Spectrum Philly won. Boston won the next one in the Garden, then the next one in the Spectrum, the margins in most of these games were as low as 1 and as high as 3, Philadelphia in many of the game blowing leads. In Game 7 in Boston Garden it happened again. Philadelphia was up by as many as eleven, but in a very physical fourth quarter a Larry Bird field goal, the only field goal in the last two minutes stopped the Sixers yet again. The next year a hotly contested series with Boston went the Sixers way in seven but yet again they lost to the Lakers n the finals. In 1982 the Sixers realized they had a minor problem: they had great offense, and fair defense, a defense that really could not compete with the elite teams. The Sixers signed Moses Malone, getting rid of power forward Caldwell Jones to Houston. This team, led by Erving and Malone with a supporting cast of Andrew Toney, Maurice Cheeks, Bobby Jones, Mark Iavaroni, and an excellent bench, the team exploded and was considered one of the ten best ever. Moses Malone was MVP, Erving All Star MVP, both All NBA First Team, Bobby Jones was Sixth Man of the Year, leading the team to a 65-17 record. It was an NBA crowning achievement, proving to be the pride of Philadelphia, giving it's basketball team an elusive championship. But success proved fleeting for the Sixers. Next year the injured and aging Sixers lost in five in the first round to the upstart New Jersey Nets. While it was a sad way to go out it was obvious the Sixers especially Erving was older and not what he used to be. Despite that the team the next year would play the now stellar Boston Celtics in the conference finals, and lose in five. Afterward the Sixers never got to the conference finals again with Erving, despite acquiring emerging superstar, and legend Charles Barkley. He retired in 1987, a true legend in basketball, and in Philadelphia. He was considered an unofficial ambassador to the game, and also an avid philanthropist, helping the game reach heights of popularity never before seen. Since then Erving is on the board of directors of Coca Cola, a broadcaster for a short time, and always a legend who advertises and promotes the game.

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