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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the "No Way Even for Dr. J Reverse Layup"

Today is the 30th anniversary of one of the most famous moves in NBA history, Julius Erving's spectacular reverse layup in game four of the 1980 NBA Finals that Basketball Digest dubbed "The no way even for Dr. J reverse layup." ESPN has been showing replays of this move as part of a discussion about the most "iconic" moments in various sports. In case you somehow have never seen this move--or if you just want to savor it once again--check this out:

Here is what I wrote about Erving's baseline move in my article about the last night at the Spectrum:

"There is one significant moment that I think about, Sixers versus the Lakers," Erving said. "On this particular play, I ended up taking the baseline, drove it hard, one dribble, maybe two dribbles. I got some pretty good momentum, so I took off, elevated, found myself soaring along the baseline and I just waited as long as I could until I got to the other side and then I kind of turned back this way and put a little reverse spin on the ball." Of course, even the eloquent Erving does not have the words to do justice to this move (a move that ABA observers swear would not even crack the top ten of the moves that he did as a young player in that league). In order to appreciate this reverse layup, you have to look at it in freeze frame and pause at the moment when Doc is in full flight: it looks as though he is literally walking on air and he is holding the ball in his oversized right hand, which is extended well over the out of bounds line. I once heard Doc say that when he jumped he had first planned to dunk, but then he saw Kareem Abdul-Jabbar come over so he brought the ball down (that is when he was holding it over the end line) in order to pass it but no one cut to the hoop behind Kareem so Erving simply kept flying and shot a reverse. He did all of that moving (and thinking) while suspended in mid-air! Younger people may not understand or believe it, but if Doc were playing today SportsCenter would probably be named after him. There is a very good reason that Al Bianchi (Doc's first pro coach) says that he never had bench players pay better attention to the game during his coaching career than when he coached Erving: no one wanted to miss Doc's next house call.

Since SportsCenter was just in its infancy when Erving made this move it is really cool to see it replayed in full rotation on the show 30 years later. Erving's greatness has truly stood the test of time and has been an inspiration to several generations of fans--and NBA players.

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posted by David Friedman @ 1:25 PM



At Tuesday, May 11, 2010 3:52:00 PM, Blogger Bhel Atlantic said...

He takes a couple dribbles with his right hand, does not put his left hand on the ball, cradles the ball with his right hand, and then pulls off that spectacular move. Did he have unusually big hands for an NBA player, or can most guys do that?

This play happened a couple months before I was born. I wish I had been sentient when he was in his prime!

At Tuesday, May 11, 2010 7:53:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Dang those ham hands, I can see Kobe dreaming of having those, they helped Dr J and Michael Jordan to be able to finish off all sort of crazy angled layups by utilizing wicked spin that would require most players to use two hands to create that much rotation.

At Wednesday, May 12, 2010 10:04:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Bhel Atlantic/Allen:

Yes, Dr. J has huge hands, much larger than almost any other NBA player's hands. His hands are actually bigger than Kareem's even though Kareem is more than six inches taller than Dr. J. In his classic book The Breaks of the Game, David Halberstam writes at length about how Dr. J's hands enabled him to do things--catch bad passes with one hand, pick up his dribble without using his off hand at all--that other players would not even dream of trying.

At Thursday, May 13, 2010 9:31:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I remember the night that shot happened. As a Lakers fan, I remember already being annoyed by how unstoppable Dr. J was. When he drove to the basket and I saw Kareem come over to help and they forced him to float out of bounds, I remember thinking,"good, that's going to be a turnover." Then of course, he somehow floated and spun it on the other side.

In the words of John McEnroe, I was like, "You CANNOT be serious?!" Still can't believe that play.

Even though I'm a Lakers fan, Dr. J remains one of my favorite players of all time.

At Saturday, February 22, 2014 11:49:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember that play like it was yesterday. Sitting at the edge of my bed going nuts when he makes the shot!
I went to many Sixers games during the early 80's and was lucky enough to catch playoffs and finals games. Dr. J was the most exciting player ever. You waited every game for that one move that you'd talk about for weeks! Thanks Doc!


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