|ABA draft:|| 1971, Undergrad|
|Pro career:||16 seasons|
|Hall of Fame:|| Pro Basketball|
Julius Winfield Erving III (born February 22, 1950 in Roosevelt, New York), commonly known by the nickname Dr. J, is an American basketball player who helped launch the modern style of play that emphasizes leaping ability and play above the rim.
Erving was instrumental in bringing legitimacy to the now-defunct American Basketball Association. While some players are considered to be "the team", Dr. J. was considered "the league". He was the main asset of the ABA when it merged with the National Basketball Association after the 1976 season.
In his professional career with the Virginia Squires and the New York Nets in the ABA, and the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA, Erving won three championships, four Most Valuable Player Awards, and three scoring titles. He is the fifth-highest scorer in professional basketball history, with 30,026 points.
Erving was named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time team and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. With Michael Jordan, he is considered as one of the most spectacular basketballers ever.
High School and College
Erving first played basketball at Roosevelt High School. It was in that time that he got his nickname "Doctor" for his precision and the way he "operated" on the court.
Then he enrolled at the University of Massachusetts in 1968. In the two varsity seasons of his college basketball career, he averaged 26.3 points and 20.2 rebounds per game, becoming one of only six players in NCAA Men's Basketball history to average more than 20 points and 20 rebounds per game. Nevertheless, he failed to attract much public attention.
At that time, professional basketball was in flux. Pro basketball was split into two leagues, the ABA and the NBA, with players rapidly switching clubs and leagues. Erving decided to join the ABA in 1971 and signed as an undergraduate free agent with the ABA's Virginia Squires.
Erving quickly established himself as a force, and gaining a reputation for hard and ruthless dunking. He scored 27.3 points per game as a rookie, was selected to the All-ABA Second Team, made the ABA All-Rookie Team and finished second to Artis Gilmore for the ABA Rookie of the Year Award. He led the Squires into the Eastern Division Finals, where they lost to the Rick Barry-led New York Nets.
When he became eligible for the NBA draft in 1972, the Milwaukee Bucks picked him in the first round (12th pick overall). This move would have brought him together with two other NBA legends, Oscar Robertson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. However, he was unhappy there and tried to move to the Atlanta Hawks, until due to legal injunction, he was obliged to return to the Squires in the ABA. There, his game flourished, and he achieved a career-best 31.9 points per game. The graceful forward with the trademark Afro was dazzling people with his flashy, exciting style of play, which fit well in the ABA's up-tempo image.
New York Nets
Erving was traded to the New York Nets in 1973. Erving led the Nets to the ABA Finals against the Utah Stars and vanquished them. Erving had won his first ABA title. More important than that, Erving established himself not only as the most important Nets player, but as the most important ABA player. His unusual and highly spectacular play single-handedly gave the league fans and credibility.
By 1976, the ABA was failing under financial pressure. The Erving-led Nets defeated the Denver Nuggets in the swan song finals of the ABA. In the postseason, Erving averaged 34.7 points and was named Most Valuable Player of the playoffs.
In his five ABA seasons Erving had won two championships, three MVP trophies, and three scoring titles.
After the merger of the Nets and three other surviving teams into the NBA, Erving had a salary dispute with the Nets and eventually was sold to the Philadelphia 76ers (a move that cost the Nets franchise, soon to relocate to New Jersey, dearly in terms of lost credibility). Erving quickly became the leading man of his new club and led them into the NBA Finals against the Portland Trailblazers of Bill Walton. After taking a 2-0 lead, the Blazers defeated the Sixers with four straight victories. However, Erving enjoyed success off the court, becoming one of the first ballers to endorse products and became one of the games' first players to have a shoe marketed under his name.
In the following years, Erving had to cope with the fact that he himself was a stellar player, but his team simply needed time to grow; they were eliminated twice in the Eastern Conference Finals. In 1979-1980 Larry Bird had entered the league, reviving the Boston Celtics and the storied Celtics-76ers rivalry; these two teams would face each other in the Eastern Conference Finals for the next four years, and the Bird vs. Dr J matchup became the top personal rivalry in the sport, even inspiring the early video game Julius Erving-Larry Bird One-on-One.
In 1980 the 76ers prevailed over the Celtics, and went to the NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers. There, Erving executed the legendary Baseline Move, an incredible behind-the-board reverse layup and one of the most spectacular basketball moves ever. However, the Lakers won 4-2 with a superb Magic Johnson.
1981 and 1982 were also sour grapes for Erving, as the Sixers stranded twice, once against the Celtics and once again against the Lakers. Nevertheless, Erving was named the NBA MVP in 1981. But for the 1982-1983 season, the Sixers obtained the missing link to combat their weakness at their center position, Moses Malone. Armed with one of the most lethal center-forward combinations of all time, the Sixers dominated the whole season, causing Malone to make the famous prediction "four-four-four", claiming that the Sixers would sweep through the playoffs. In fact, the Sixers went four-five-four, losing one game to the Milwaukee Bucks in the conference finals and sweeping the Los Angeles Lakers to win the NBA title.
Erving continued his all-star caliber play into his twilight years, averaging 22.4, 20.0, 18.1, and 16.8 points per game in his final seasons. In 1986, he announced that he would retire after the season, causing every basketball game he played to be sold out and packed with adoring fans.
Erving retired at age 37. He is one of the few players in modern basketball to have his number retired by two franchises: the New Jersey Nets (formerly New York Nets) have retired his No. 32 jersey, and the Philadelphia 76ers his No. 6 jersey.
In his ABA and NBA careers combined, he scored more than 30,000 points. In 1993, Erving was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. When he retired, Erving ranked in the top 10 in scoring (third), field goals made (third), field goals attempted (fifth) and steals (first). On the combined NBA/ABA scoring list, Erving ranked third with 30,026 points. As of 2005, Erving ranks fifth on the list; only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Karl Malone, and Michael Jordan have scored more points in the history of professional basketball.
After his basketball career, Erving was equally successful. He became a businessman, obtaining ownership of a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Philadelphia and doing work for TV as an analyst. In 1997, he joined the front office of the Orlando Magic.
Lifetime NBA Statistics
- Games: 836
- Points: 18364
- PPG: 22.0
- RPG: 6.7
- APG: 3.9
- FT%: .777
Erving introduced the dunk jumping off the foul line, which he demonstrated in the 1976 All-Star Dunking Contest. He is revered for his legacy of amazing acrobatic and powerful offensive moves.
The Baseline Move
One of his most memorable plays occurred during the 1980 NBA Finals, when he executed a seemingly impossible finger-roll behind the backboard . He drove past a defender on the right baseline and went up for a layup. Then 7'2" center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar crossed his way, blocking the route to the basket and forcing him outwards. In mid-air, it was apparent that Erving would land behind the backboard. But somehow he managed to reach over and score on a right-handed layup despite the fact that his whole body, including his left shoulder, was already behind the hoop. This move, along with his free-throw line dunk, has become one of Julius Erving's signature events of his career.
"As a basketball player, Julius was the first to actually take the torch and become the spokesman for the NBA. He understood what his role was and how important it was for him to conduct himself as a representative of the league. Julius was the first player I ever remember who transcended sports and was known by one name -- Doctor." -- his coach Billy Cunningham.
"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 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.
- Basketball Hall of Fame profile
- NBA History profile
- The Baseline Move (includes animated GIF)de:Julius Erving