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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Happy 60th Birthday, Dr. J!

"The respect is so much more important than the popularity."--Julius Erving

Julius Erving turned 60 yesterday; I don't know how he feels about reaching that milestone but just the thought of Dr. J being 60 makes me feel old: I started rooting for him when I was just a little kid and he was several years younger than I am now. I respect and appreciate all basketball eras and all great players but I have said this many times and I will say it again: if I live over 100 years I will never enjoy watching someone play basketball more than I enjoyed watching Dr. J. He will always be my favorite basketball player; that does not necessarily make him the greatest player of all-time, though he should be mentioned more often in that discussion than he generally is now--but that is a debate for another day.

Erving retired from the NBA nearly a quarter century ago but he is still a household name and he is still respected not only for his unique--and highly productive--playing style but also for his dignity, grace and class. I have had the privilege to interview Erving and gather his insights about a wide range of subjects, including briefly being Pistol Pete's teammate and delivering a mind boggling dunk in the 1972 NBA-ABA All-Star Game. Recently, I compiled a complete list of Erving's 40 point games in the ABA and NBA, the first and only such list that I have ever seen or heard about.

I could not decide how to best pay tribute to Erving on his milestone birthday until I found some videos of an old ESPN show that I had never seen before (I did not have cable in the 1980s). I enjoyed watching these videos and I think that you will enjoy them, too:

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posted by David Friedman @ 6:27 AM



At Tuesday, February 23, 2010 11:31:00 AM, Blogger madnice said...

definitely does man wow. it still amazes me how he can palm the ball off the dribble and do whatever. one of the best ever no matter what. imagine how even more revered he would be if his whole career was in the nba. its a shame that his aba exploits are somewhat forgotten. mallozzi should be ashamed for that book he wrote about the doctor. my best basketball moments were watching him with my father as a child, especially his last game vs the bucks when he walked off the court for that last time. dr. j meant a lot to a lot of people all over the world in those days. no one in sports history compares to him in terms of flair, grace and style on any court.

At Thursday, February 25, 2010 7:58:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was awesome!!

Does the NBA still have copies of whole games in that era? More importantly are they available?

I think it would be fascinating to see how an entire 48 minute game unfolds.

It is ridiculous that a lot of "analysts" routinely compare players of different eras even if they have never ever seen the guy play!


At Thursday, February 25, 2010 11:01:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Sadly, very few copies of whole NBA games from prior to the 1980s exist. You may have noticed that ESPN Classic and NBA TV tend to replay the same classic games/highlights over and over; that is because there is a limited library of such games/highlights from which to choose. For instance, the only known existing copy of Pistol Pete's 68 point performance versus the Knicks is a VHS tape made by a fan at home (the ESPN Vintage NBA show ran some clips from that VHS tape). If that fan had not popped a tape into his VCR that day then there would be no footage of Pistol Pete's career-high game!

At Saturday, March 06, 2010 5:03:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Doctor was simply amazing! I grew up in Delaware and my father would take me to games in Philly on a regular basis. Dr.j helped shaped my youth. I remember my first game watching him when Doug Collins and Henry Bibby were teammates and sitting in the smokey Spectrum watching my favorite player of all time play. I watch the game today and see players passing Julius on the NBA scoring list and I sit back and say..It wouldnt happen if they included his scoring from the ABA, or if he would of started his career in the NBA. Allen Iverson recently passed him on the Sixers list and I say the same even though I appreciated Allens gifts while he was here in Philly.
I constantly get into debates over who was the greatest forward? Most say Bird..I say Julius! Bird had better teams period! Count the Hall of Famers on the Celtics back then ..now count the Sixers?
Doc took his teams to 4 finals in 6 years winning the last in 83 with no Hall of Famers (not sure if Doug Collins is in the Hall) with the exception of Moses. Lets not even talk about the Lakers.. they had a weak west coast back then and a easier path to the Finals its just a fact.. Philly Boston is the real rivalry not Boston Lakers!
I was just wondering is their a list of Julius and Birds head to head stats somewhere out there (regular season and playoffs) I would love to see how they compared when Doc could still play at a high level. Of course his scoring would decline after lets say 1983-1984 but im sure head to head people could see my point?
If there isnt a list maybe its something worth compiling David.

At Saturday, March 06, 2010 7:29:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Thank you for sharing your memories of seeing Dr. J play. He has always been and always will be my favorite player.

Check out the right hand sidebar on the main page of 20 Second Timeout for the section that contains numerous articles about Julius Erving. The first one, The Best of Rivals: Julius Erving Versus Larry Bird, is a piece that I did for the June 2004 issue of Basketball Digest. The Bird-Magic rivalry had the benefit of reaching its zenith just as TV coverage of the NBA increased after David Stern became commissioner but, as you suggest, Bird-Erving was in fact the top rivalry in the league in the early 1980s; while Bird and Magic only faced each other twice per season--and did not square off in the playoffs until 1984--Bird and Erving battled six times each regular season and then contested four Eastern Conference Finals, including three straight from 1980-82. Erving had the early edge, taking two of their first three playoff showdowns, while Bird understandably fared better later on as Erving aged and his supporting cast declined while Bird reached his peak and his supporting cast got better.

The final tallies for the Bird-Erving rivalry are 2-2 in playoff series, 12-12 in playoff games and 23-21 in Bird's favor in regular season games (the teams split four regular season games when Bird and/or Erving did not play).

In 1983, EA Sports created the video game that became the precursor for the basketball video games that are so popular now; that 1983 video game featured Bird and Erving--not Bird and Magic--going one on one.


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