I feel that the transformation for Erving from the American Basketball Association (ABA) to the National Basketball Association (NBA) changed the game of basketball for the better but it also changed the skill and fame that came Ervings way. Julius Winfield Erving II was born on February 22, 1950 in Roosevelt, New York. He went on to be a great fundamental player in high school at Roosevelt High School, and then an outstanding player at the University of Massachusetts where he averaged 26. 3 points per game and 20. 2 rebounds per game over two varsity seasons.
After Erving left college in 1971 he was unsure of what was about to happen with his basketball career but he pushed on to try and achieve the dream of any athlete, make it to the pros. The next big step for Erving was the ABA. At such a young age Erving was looking forward to a young and promising career, but I dont think he could have imagined a career this impressive in a million years. Erving signed as an undergraduate free agent with the ABAs Virginia Squires. The game of professional basketball was extremely unstable in 1971-72 when Erving joined.
The ABA and NBA had already begun talks of a merger, which made players jump from league to league and put franchises at unrest. Erving chose the ABA and joined with the Squires who already had the scoring champion Charlie Scott on there team. That didnt hold Erving back and he immediately contributed to the teams success. Ervings first year in the league was a real success story for him, he averaged 27. 3 points per game, was chosen to All-ABA Second Team, made the ABA All Rookie Team and finished second in the ABA Rookie of the Year Award.
After his rookie season his college class graduation had rolled around and he was selected in the 1972 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 12th pick overall. Erving then attempted to sign a deal with the Atlanta Hawks but got caught up in some injunctions and was forced back to the ABA just four games into the season. The man made it known that he was going to be one of the best that year when he decided to lead the league in scoring pouring in a career-high 31. 9 points per contest. The ABA at this time was much more of a fast paced league compared to the NBA where it was a slow it down post it up type of basketball game.
The quickness and the athletic ability was sitting in the ABA while the NBA made its money on fundamentals and knowledge. But the fast paced, exciting, innovating way Erving played earned him a spot on the All-ABA First Team for four straight years. This was a feat not accomplished by many but no doubt Erving was one of the best after tearing through four years of solid basketball. Erving was obviously a star and he was realizing he had a chance to be one of the best but not many people around him knew he could be one of the best because he was stuck on a low profile team in Virginia.
The ABA is a different ball game than some of the ones being played in the NBA. But his lucky break was about to strike, because at this point in his career Erving is playing great basketball and the Squires decided to see if they could make a deal with somebody that they could really benefit from because their seasons were not ending in championships. The lack of fame and notification for Erving is something that I feel was propelled by the trade made in 1973-74 season with the New York Nets. Erving was still very young and knew there were great things to come and this was just the beginning.
He came out that year with something to prove, he wanted to be the best ABA player the world had ever seen. Erving averaged 27. 4 points per game, 10. 7 rebounds per game, 5. 2 assists per game, 2. 3 steals per game and 2. 4 blocks per game. This is a stat line of a 23 year-old man playing among some of the talented veterans of the ABA. This stat line was good enough to earn him ABA Most Valuable Player Award for that season and the two season following. He also led the team to two Championships in 1974 and 1976.
It would be safe to say that by this time in his life Erving was the best ABA player around. But did Erving receive the fame he should have been receiving for being the player he was? Erving was the best player in the ABA but the NBA is a different league and there are different ways to winning in a league like that. Also, just because Erving was scoring like crazy that does not mean he was playing his best basketball. Some of the greats did not have ridiculous averages but they got the job done when it needed to be done and in any way that it needed to be done.
The 1976 season brought the end of the ABA era, but before the ABA left the face of the earth it wanted to make its mark on the basketball world and Erving wanted to leave his mark on basketball for life. The ABAs final All Star game was one for the ages because they knew it was going to be the final one and they wanted to go out with a bang. The ABA decided that they were going to throw together a dunk contest to really get the crowd excited about the end of an era. The man they called the Doctor decided to show everyone what they were all in store for when he hit the scene in the NBA.
Erving accomplished a dunk no man had seen before, jumping from the free throw line and slamming the ball home. The fans went crazy and the trophy was handed out. Erving had a lot of things in his future to come still at the age of 26 years old and he looked forward to spreading his wings in the NBA. But not only was he spreading his wings and making a name for himself in his second league but he was changing the game of basketball from the old slow paced post up game to a more fast paced game with more excitement and speed.
He created the game we love to watch today by hard work and dedication but on the floor it looked effortless. The 1976 NBA season had rolled around and Erving ended up on the Philadelphia 76ers where he joined up with George McGinnis. This was an opportunity to prove he was going to be among the greats of the ABA and NBA. Erving didnt take this opportunity lightly because he knew he had the chance to propel his fame and skill in a league of such amazing players. A lot of talk was going around saying the only reason the merger happened was because of Erving.
There was a lot of pressure on Erving in his first NBA season because of all the hype he had coming out of the ABA. The pressure got to him a little bit and his averages went down. That didnt get Erving down because he led the team to a league championship series. At the All-Star game Erving made a statement scoring 30 points and hauling in 12 rebounds to win the Most Valuable Player Award. From this point on Erving never looked back. Erving got a feel for the ABA through his years there, but when he got used to the NBA that is when his game really took off and he proved to be one of the best ever, not just of the ABA.
At 26, going on 27, Erving had made his name in the NBA. By this point in Ervings career people are finally starting to know this guy called Dr. J in every household across America. The NBA is where Erving really became a famous man that the world loved to watch. Through the late 1970s and early 80s Erving become one of the most amazing basketball players to touch the ball but he hadnt won that ring that everyone was talking about so much. He didnt have the leadership and veteran knowledge to propel them to a level that was beyond average.
Through these years Erving didnt win a championship he still put up some phenomenal numbers averaging over 23 points per game, over seven rebounds per game, over four assists, just under two steals per game and over 1. 5 blocks per game. But the year would finally come when Erving would get his best shot at leading his team to a championship in 1982 when the Philadelphia 76ers acquired the outstanding young center named Moses Malone and the team proved to have everything they needed to go on and win it all.
With the knowledge Erving had learned there was no question his game was at its finest, he was not scoring as much but he was contributing the ball and doing what he needed to do to get wins. Erving was in the league to play basketball, make money and become famous when he first started but once he started seeing the players around him win titles and he wanted to become one of the elite. The dynamic duo of Erving and Malone steamrolled through the playoffs and straight to the finals to meet the Lakers who had proved to be one of the 76ers rivals throughout the years.
Moses Malone led the 76ers through the playoffs and seemed to be the star of the championship series until game four when Erving hit a shot in the closing seconds of the game to take a three point lead and seal the deal for the 76ers. The championship was all he needed to add to his repertoire to make him elite and on top of his game once and for all. Erving was no doubt one of the greatest when he played in the ABA, but it was the skill and fame he got from the NBA that propelled him to basketball glory and made the name Dr. J famous for years and years to come.
In his storied career through the ABA and the NBA he earned three championships, 16 All-Star game appearances, four time MVP, 12 time All-NBA/ABA selection, ABA All-Rookie Team, one time ABA All-Defensive Team, fifth all time in field goals made, seventh all time in steals, fifth all time in points scored and he was honored enough to be put in the basketball hall of fame. Only the greats can put together careers like this, and Erving was no doubt one of them. Ervings fame propelled from the ABA to the NBA in a ridiculous manner.
On April 6, 1971 Erving was signed to a four year, $500,000 contract which many people would say is a fair price for a young man coming out of college joining the ABA, but the fame and fortune was not there until the jump to the NBA occurred. Erving was such a special player that Philadelphia forked over $3 million dollars to get him once he came to the NBA. This proves that he really hit stardom and fame when he hit the NBA. Throughout his career Erving earned more money and more fame, something the ABA could not offer players at the time they were around.
As far as his skill increasing when he moved himself to the NBA there is good reason to believe that is true. Erving may not have averaged the same number from the ABA to the NBA, but we all know that the NBA was the league where all the men played, and that was the league where the toughest competition was, especially after the merger. Erving came into the league as the golden boy of the ABA and he had reason to be because he was so good they practically bought the whole ABA to get him in the league.
Now a lot of people may just simply stare at his averages and say the Erving didnt improve when making to the NBA but I beg to differ because not only did he have a supporting cast around him to help with some of the workload but he was playing in a different game. The ABA was a fast-paced non-stop league where scoring was one of the few things they did very well, along with dunking. When Erving came into the league a lot of changes were being made as far as the three-point line being added and the slam-dunk contest becoming one of the new attractions for fans to watch.
It just wasnt the style of play he was used to in the beginning, but once he figured it out he took off and never looked back. Erving wasnt hitting the averages he once hit in the ABA but he was becoming a leader, distributing the ball where it needed to be and searching for his chance at the championship trophy. This is what made him a better basketball player and a phenomenal person to be around. There is no doubt in my mind that Erving was one of the greatest we will ever see in the sport of basketball today.
His abilities to soar through the sky, score almost at will, lead his team to three championships and win as many awards as he has is something that only comes around every once in a great while. When you hear the name Julius Dr. J Erving you are going to think of the amazing behind the backboard windmill layup and the free throw line dunk, but you are also going to think about the man who had it all and still wanted more because that was his personality. Erving was a winner and the NBA made him a legend.