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NBA 75 Series: #15 Julius Erving

At #15 of my NBA 75 Greatest Players of All Time is a player who’s Fro was as cool as his style and grace on the court, forever changing the game with his aerial artistry, Julius Erving! Erving was born on February 22nd, 1950, in East Meadow, Long Island, and raised in Roosevelt, New York from the age of 13. He would attend Roosevelt High School, where he would play for their basketball team and receive a nickname as cool as any in history “ The Doctor” or “Dr.J” from a high school friend named Leon Saunders. The legend even explained how it happened when he stated, "I started calling [Saunders] 'the professor', and he started calling me 'the doctor'. So it was just between us...we were buddies, we had our nicknames and we would roll with the nicknames. ... And that's where it came from."

He would become a legend at the iconic and famous Rucker Park where he would play against NBA and playground legends such as Wilt Chamberlain, Joe Hammond, Connie Hawkins, and many more. Erving would receive a scholarship to play his collegiate basketball at the University of Massachusetts for the Massachusett Minutemen. In his first two seasons Erving averaged 26.3 points and a dumbfounding 20.2 rebounds which is absurd for someone in general, let alone not a towering big man.

Erving became one of six players to average over 20 points and 20 rebounds per game in NCAA history. Erving wasn’t able to display his elite showmanship and athleticism in the air by prohibiting dunking in 1968. He would seek hardship entry to become a professional player in 1971 where he would start in the ABA (American Basketball Association) for the Virginia Squires.

He would sign a four-year contract worth $500,000 with the Squires and would instantly become one of the games most transformational figures, instantly establishing himself as a force, as well as earning a reputation for his ruthless highlight-reel dunks. He would average 27.3 points, be selected to the ABA’s All-Second Team, make the ABA All-Rookie Team, led the league in rebounding, and finished second for Rookie of the Year behind fellow legend himself, Artis Gilmore.

Erving led the Squires to the East Divisional that year where they lost in seven games to the Rick Barry-led New York Nets. He would go on to dominate the ABA by winning two titles, win two ABA MVPs, lead the league in scoring three times, and numerous other accolades.

Upon the initial season after the NBA-ABA merger in 1976-77, Erving would lead the Philadelphia Sixers to the NBA Finals where they would end up losing in six games to the Portland Trailblazers led by the MVP that season in Bill Walton.

He’s ultimately known as “Dr.J” the most graceful and coolest player whenever he was on the court with his cool afro flying back as he so elegantly flew to the rim for a vicious slam over a defender. I was debating whether to put Erving over Oscar Robertson but he played five years in the ABA which kind of hurt his career stats and accolades since the NBA, wrongfully hasn’t integrated the ABA’s stats to this day.

He also was the first man to ever jump from the free throw line! Winning the first ever dunk contest for the ABA in 1976. Erving helped inspire future aerial artists such as Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Vince Carter, and others.

Now let's get into his NBA accolades. He is an NBA champion (1983), NBA MVP (1981), 11-time NBA All-Star, seven-time All-NBA, and a two-time All-Star Game MVP. Erving was a vital part of NBA History because he was the preeminent player from the ABA who became an icon in the NBA with his gracious style on and off the court and stylish Afro. If you ain’t feeling well call “The Doctor.”

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