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Friday, February 18, 2022

NBA TV Film Room: Julius "Dr. J" Erving and Dominique "Human Highlight Film" Wilkins

NBA TV's "Film Room" tonight featured Kenny Smith interviewing Julius "Dr. J" Erving and Dominique "Human Highlight Film" Wilkins, two members of the NBA's 75th Anniversary Team. Wilkins said that everyone in his generation was inspired by Erving, and Wilkins declared that he still considers Erving to be the greatest in-game dunker of all-time. Erving told Wilkins that he appreciates the compliment, and that he was inspired by "Jumping" Johnny Green, Connie Hawkins, and Wilt Chamberlain. Green's name may not be familiar to younger fans, but he was the fifth overall pick in the 1959 NBA Draft and he earned four All-Star selections during his 14 season career. Green lived near Erving when Erving was a child, and Erving recalls walking past Green's house on the way to school. Having a neighborhood hero who starred in the NBA influenced Erving.

Smith asked Erving and Wilkins about their different dunking styles: Erving is known for jumping off of one leg and gliding through the air, while Wilkins is known for jumping off of two legs and powering his way to the hoop. Erving explained that he not only was predominantly a one leg jumper but that he jumped with his left leg on "98%" of his dunks. The reason for this is a serious childhood injury to Erving's right leg; after that time, his left leg was always stronger, and Erving joked that his left leg was "bionic" like the Six Million Dollar Man's right arm. Wilkins recalled that in high school he usually jumped off of one leg but that he became a two leg jumper by accident in college after one play during which he jumped with two legs and noticed that doing so gave him greater stability when he was bumped in mid-air. After that, he focused on jumping off of two legs.

Smith asked Erving and Wilkins to name the best in-game dunkers past or present, excluding themselves. Erving mentioned Shawn Kemp, Karl Malone, Vince Carter, and Clyde Drexler, while Wilkins added these names to the list: David Thompson, Blake Griffin, John Collins, Kenny Walker, and Shaquille O'Neal. Smith noted that the ABA's 1976 Slam Dunk Contest took place mainly to showcase Erving versus Thompson. Erving agreed with that, and Wilkins added that dunkers are natural competitors who always want to see who is the best. 

Smith mentioned a hypothetical "Last Supper" of the six greatest dunkers of all-time. He said that Erving and Wilkins have to be on the list, and then Smith left it up to them to add four more dunkers. Erving suggested Vince Carter. Wilkins said that Michael Jordan has to be on the list, and then he said that he will finish the list off by including Zach LaVine and Aaron Gordon because in recent years those two players "brought the Dunk Contest back." Wilkins said that Gordon must have received more perfect 50s than anyone who has never won the Dunk Contest.

Smith said that he will have to be the "hater" in this conversation, because he does not place LaVine and Gordon at the same level as the other "Last Supper" dunkers because LaVine and Gordon do not do Dunk Contest quality dunks in games. Along those lines, later in the interview both Erving and Wilkins mentioned that they never did special preparation for Slam Dunk contests because during the Slam Dunk Contests they just did dunks that they regularly did during games. I have always found it more appealing to watch a dunker do a dunk that he could do in a game as opposed to watching a dunker jump over a car or blow out a candle or do other theatrics that have no relevance to playing basketball. The dunk is a high percentage shot, a way to intimidate opponents while inspiring teammates, and a form of artistic expression; for the past several years, the artistic expression component has been elevated way above the first two components, to the detriment of both the game overall and the Dunk Contest in particular.

Smith ended the interview with one final question for both players: How many points do they think they would average in today's game? Erving laughed and said that he had just been talking about this with Clyde Drexler. Erving said that today's game is much different because defensive players are not permitted to hand check on the perimeter, and he also pointed out that in today's game star players like Luka Doncic and Giannis Antetokounmpo bring the ball up the court all the time "and they are the first option." Erving said that he if played in today's game under those circumstances then he could average 40 ppg, but he also mentioned that this style of play may not be conducive to winning. I think that he is right on both counts. Erving was always a team-first, unselfish player, so even though he could average 40 ppg in today's game I suspect that he would have elected not to do that. Wilkins also said that he thinks he could average 40 ppg in today's game. Before younger fans object to what Erving and Wilkins said, keep in mind that players today who are less athletic and less efficient than Erving and Wilkins routinely average 27-30 ppg or more. 

After Film Room, NBA TV aired an episode of 75 Stories featuring profiles of Erving, Wilkins, George Gervin, and Dave Bing. Erving's New York Nets coach, Kevin Loughery, noted that in the 1976 ABA Finals Erving outplayed the Denver Nuggets frontcourt that featured three Hall of Famers in their primes: David Thompson, Dan Issel, and Bobby Jones. Loughery said that Erving does not get enough credit for his performance in that series, that Erving was the best fast break finisher of all-time, and that Erving had a better jump shot than most people think. Billy Cunningham, who coached Erving with the Philadelphia 76ers from 1977-85, said that he never had an argument or cross word with Erving, and that everything Erving did was for the benefit of the team. Cunningham recalled that Erving stayed very long after games to talk to any media member who had a question, so much so that the team eventually just rented a car for Erving so that the rest of the team could take the bus back to the hotel. Cunningham also said that Erving let rookies stay at his house until they knew whether or not they were going to make the team. Erving's dignity, grace, and sensitivity contrast markedly with the attitudes and behavior of many of today's star players.

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posted by David Friedman @ 11:51 PM



At Saturday, February 19, 2022 4:24:00 PM, Blogger chuckealey35and0 said...

I missed this show but hopefully NBA TV will air it again. Besides intimidating the opponents and inspiring teammates the dunk REALLY revs up the home crowd!! Also how many timeouts did the opposition coach have to burn after one of those indescribable dunks from the Doc!!!


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