Dr. J was the original funkadelic. He didn’t just play basketball, he performed a high flying trapeze act on a nightly basis. It’s hard to believe but Erving didn’t invent the dunk, he nearly perfected the art form. Gliding from hardwood to hoop, every drive was sure to end in a rim rocking dunk or an electrifying highlight.
The doc looked surreal soaring through the skies of NBA and ABA arenas everywhere. His 6’6” frame, elongated by those tiny shorts, giant afro, and those massive hands. Those hands, they were the secret weapon. Clenching the ball like a lions jaw clenches its prey, guiding the ball in whatever direction he wanted. Those hands made all those high flying dunks possible. They gave him the gift of the reverse lay-ups from behind the back board. They gave him the ability to drop 30 points a night without a reliable jumper.
Julius first broke onto the seen not in the NBA but making hay in the ABA. In five years he racked up 11,662 points, 2 championships and 3 MVPs. The NBA and ABA merged and Philidunkia was his new home. Although Julius found himself playing for a title in his first year, his individual stats took some time to adjust to the subtle differences of the NBA. Within a few years, his scoring was back up in the stratosphere and he had played in three different NBA Finals, losing all three (‘76, ‘79, ‘81). Finally in 1983 the addition of Moses Malone put the 6ers over the top, sweeping the Lakers in four. Erving would go on to score 18,364 points in the NBA, add a league MVP to his hardware collection and give us one of the most underrated rivalries in NBA history; Bird vs. Dr J (NO, not the video game).
Dr. J was from the future, sent back to save basketball. During an era where two leagues fought for dominance, it was Julius Erving that dominated all, on or off the court. Dr J was one of the first pro-basketball players to endorse products and star in movies. In the words of his coach, Billy Cunningham,
In most ways, Dr. J was ahead of his time. Stuck playing in the 70’s and 80’s with the game and athleticism of those from the 90’s and 00’s. In today’s NBA, Julius would headline Sport Center’s Top 10 on a nightly basis. His dunks would have 10 million views. His afro would inspire an entire generation of kids to boycott barbershops.
Through the years he gave a lot to NBA fans. He gave the never-happy fans of Philadelphia something to cheer about. He gave generations of future NBAers highlights like ”Rock the Baby” & “The Baseline Move”. He helped start the trend of high dollar off-court endorsements. And, if nothing else, at least he gave us another famous “Doc”.
Rock the Baby on Cooper
The Baseline Move
"Here I was, trying to win a championship, and my mouth just dropped open. He actually did that! I thought, ‘What should we do? Should we take the ball out, or should we give him the ball back and ask him to do it again?’ It’s still the greatest move I’ve ever seen in a basketball game, the all-time greatest." – Magic Johnson on the Baseline Move.