Alexandra Stevenson's "Rebirth" as Julius Erving's DaughterWhen I was growing up, I thought that Julius Erving was the perfect basketball player, someone who had an amazing skill set: otherworldly leaping ability, huge hands, quickness, the tenacity to battle bigger players for rebounds, the vision/hand eye coordination to make great passes, a solid shooting stroke. He was quite literally poetry in motion as he glided to the hoop for a slick finger roll or a powerful slam dunk over anyone who dared to get in his way.
I used to dream of playing alongside Erving with the Philadelphia 76ers and I even remember calculating how old he would be if I left school early and went to the NBA (hey, I was just a kid and you can't begrudge a kid his dream). I was so disappointed when I saw a 33 year old Erving tell Cheryl Miller (then a college star at USC) that he had no plans to be a "marathon man" and that he knew that the end of his career was approaching (Erving retired four years later).
In the great, underrated TV show "Wiseguy," Ken Wahl's character Vinnie Terranova spoke about dreaming as a kid of playing center field for the Yankees. Someone asked Terranova--who was in his early to mid 30s--when he gave up that dream and Terranova immediately replied that he had never given it up. That pretty much sums up how I feel about playing alongside Erving--and if you believe in Hugh Everett's "Many Worlds" interpretation of quantum mechanics--then perhaps there is some parallel universe in which I developed enough lateral quickness to play in the NBA and Erving decided to extend his career past the age of 40 a la Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
On a less whimsical note, in addition to Erving's on court prowess it also seemed like he was the perfect family man, someone who always made the right moves off the court as surely and confidently as he made the right moves on the court.
Of course, there is no such thing as a perfect player or a perfect man--but being imperfect does not stop someone from being great, nor does it preclude finding redemption for one's shortcomings.
In his famous ESPYs speech, Jim Valvano said that every day you should do something that makes you think, something that makes you laugh and something that brings you to tears (of happiness or sadness). In other words, every day of your life you should experience life with as many senses and emotions as possible.
Tom Friend's story about Julius Erving's reconciliation with his daughter Alexandra Stevenson is a great piece of journalism and as you read it you will surely more than fill Valvano's daily "quota":
posted by David Friedman @ 10:06 PM