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Monday, September 29, 2014

Julius Erving on Being a Role Model

"I projected in my story about always having the carrot out in front of me, that tomorrow is going to be the best day of my life, and hopefully I can make a difference tomorrow that I haven't been able to make today."--Julius Erving

In December 2013, Tavis Smiley spoke with Julius Erving about Erving's autobiography Dr. J. The wide-ranging conversation reflected Erving's typical depth of thought and abiding grace. Erving explained to Smiley how some mentors pointed him in the right direction at key moments, enabling him to in turn set a great example as a role model after he became an internationally famous athlete.

Here is that exchange, taken directly from the official interview transcript:

Tavis: So I’m watching you, and the one thing I noticed about you, even as a child, was your humility on the court. There is so much--speaking of football, there’s a lot of this in football, and even a lot of it in basketball, but people, athletes, will do something spectacular on the court or on the field, and it’s almost hard to resist doing a dance (laughter) or getting in somebody’s face.

With all the moves that you ever did, you would go to the hole, jump this way, jump this way, turn this way, flip back this way, left hand, right hand, back to the left hand, behind the backboard, put it in.

Whatever it is that you did, you would do it and just run right back down the court. I’ve never one time seen you get in somebody’s face, with all the gift and talent you had. So tell me about that humility. That’s more than just a word, it seems.

Erving: Yeah, the influences on your life, if I’ve been an influence on your life, then there might be a moment in which you get into a situation and you might say, “What would Julius do” or “What would Julius think,” “What would Mom think,” “What would Dad think.”

I had really good influences in my mom, first and foremost. The guy I was talking about from last night, Don Ryan, who was my first coach. The big three over in high school, Ray Wilson, Earl Mosley, Chuck Mcawane (sp), they always said, “Look, win without boasting and lose without crying.”

If you play sports, you’re going to lose sometimes, and I have cried, but I didn’t have control over the tears. But I’ve always had control over boasting, always, because boasting is something that emotions don’t make you do that.

You program your brain to do it, and sometimes when I see it, I crack up, because guys are just following other guys, saying, well, I’m going to make my dance funkier than his dance. (Laughter)

Or whatever, and I’m like, “Really?” So I don’t get too mad at it because I got kids and I got grandkids, and they’re part of that generation that celebrates the moment.

I had some coaches, like “We’re not celebrating unless we win the game.” The game is certainly not over in the first quarter, second quarter, third quarter, or through the fourth quarter. It’s not over till it’s over, and if it’s over and we win, we get on our bus and we can celebrate. But prior to that, I don’t want to see it.

Doing things the right way has always been of paramount importance to Erving. Erving's Philadelphia 76ers posted the best regular season record in the NBA from 1976-83 but he never scored more than 45 points in a single game for the 76ers; when his team had the game well in hand, Erving went to the bench instead of artificially inflating his individual statistics: Erving told me that it is "crass" for a player to pad his numbers if the outcome of the game has been decided. When I was a kid, I wished that Erving would play until the last minute and put up 50 points or more but upon further reflection I have gained appreciation for his approach; people who understand basketball know how great Erving was no matter how many 50 point games Erving rang up and the opinions of people who don't understand basketball just don't matter: greatness encompasses so much more than just compiling certain statistics or impressing particular influential commentators. When the Virginia Squires and New York Nets needed a young Erving to post dominant statistics, Erving did just that and when the 76ers asked Erving to blend into a team concept he sacrificed personal glory for group success--and when Coach Billy Cunningham realized that it was a mistake to ask the best player to tone his game down too much, Erving proved that his late 1970s critics had no idea what they were talking about!

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posted by David Friedman @ 7:06 PM



At Tuesday, September 30, 2014 10:53:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. J. was certainly great. I appreciate his humility approach. What we learn from hearing him talk about it is that a lot of it comes from how he was raised. Also, the era is a huge factor. Trash talk is part of the game now. I don't see a huge problem with it. Makes it more interesting for fans usually.

I don't agree with padding of stats entirely, though. If you do it the right way and continue to play the game hard and the right way, there should be no problem with scoring as much as you can. Why do people get so upset about this? I don't get it. Just like if one team is up 20 with the ball with 10 seconds left. Who cares if they go down and dunk it? If the losing team is so worried about it, then play defense and try to stop them. And who cares if you win by 20 or 22? But, if you're making a mockery of the game and your sole purpose is to just score as much as possible, that's different, and that type of stuff has happened before. Still, the opposition should show some resistance if that stuff is happening. Kobe wasn't showboating in his 62 pt. game against Dallas, but Josh Howard still delivered a cheap shot. Good to see someone was bothered, but obviously this was the wrong way to go about it. Those are truly special games in nba history, maybe the best ever. Nobody has ever scored more than the opp through 3 quarters. However, if Kobe played the entire 4th, Dallas probably beats him. So, the legend of that game might be enhanced since he sat out the 4th. However, he likely would've gotten at least mid 70s of points. That's only happened 3-4x ever.

At Friday, October 03, 2014 9:03:00 PM, Blogger Nick said...

I love this stuff. Doc's been my favorite player since I was a kid, and it's always so great when we get these snippets of just how *cool* he was beyond being the greatest player maybe ever.

You look at Jordan, and Lebron, and Kobe, and even Magic or Bird. Their personalities are great for TV basketball, but if you worked in an office with a guy who had one of their personalities, you'd strangle him with his necktie after a week.

Michael or Kobe working at a pizza place is that psychopathic guy who freaks out if your shirt isn't tucked in, who gets mad if another pizza place has fresher toppings and yells at you about it, writes angry retorts to yelp reviews. Magic would be a blast for about three days before you just wanted him to shut up and quit making dad jokes. Bird would be really funny as long as he was ripping on somebody besides you, and he'd be the scariest boss ever. Lebron would be trying so hard to be your friend while also, you know, stealing your shifts/angling for your job, and then blames you whenever something goes wrong and whines about needing to hire better co-workers. If you ask me (and as usual, nobody did), those guys (except maybe Larry) are fifty times more likable in the world of basketball than they'd be anywhere else.

Erving, though? Classy, humble, thoughtful… that's a guy who was gonna be cool no matter where life took him.


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