Born on February 22, 1950, Julius Winfield Erving II is an American former professional basketball player better known by his stage name Dr. J. When the American Basketball Association (ABA) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) merged after the 1975–76 season, Erving was the most well-known player in the ABA and contributed to its legitimacy. Learn more about New York’s Sports area. Visit How Has Madison Square Garden Shaped NYC’s Sports Legacy?
Erving’s Early Life
Erving was raised in Roosevelt, New York, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world in terms of urban areas. Starting at the age of 13 after being born on February 22, 1950, in East Meadow, Long Island. He had previously resided in the nearby Hempstead. He played basketball for the Roosevelt High School team while there. He was given the moniker “Doctor” or “Dr. J” by Leon Saunders, a high school buddy.
Erving recalled that when they started calling me Black Moses and Houdini in the Rucker Park league in Harlem, I later told them to call me Doctor if they wanted to call me anything. Erving’s friend and future teammate on the Nets and Squires, Willie Sojourner, first gave him the nickname “Dr. J”. Over time, the nickname changed to Dr. Julius, and then, finally, Dr. J.
In 1968, Erving enrolled at the University of Massachusetts despite not receiving many offers from prestigious basketball programs. Because freshmen couldn’t play varsity sports and Erving left before his senior season, he only played for the school for two seasons, but he had an impact on the program. One of only five players at the time to ever average more than 20 points and 20 rebounds per game, he averaged 32.5 points and 20.2 rebounds while playing for Massachusetts.
Julius Erving’s Personal Life
Being a Christian, Julius Erving frequently discusses his religion. In 1972, he wed Turquoise; however, their union ended in divorce in 2003. Together, they had four children. Erving claimed that the discovery of his 19-year-old son’s body in the pond in the year 2000 was the worst day of his life. He began an affair with sportswriter Samantha Stevenson in the year 1979.
She gave birth to tennis player Alexandra Stevenson in the year 1980. Erving wasn’t recognized as her father until 1999. He went to his daughter’s first-ever game in 2009, which was his first time doing so. He gave birth to Justin Kangas, his first child, in 2003. He stayed in a relationship with Madden, the woman he had three more children with. 2008 saw the marriage of both of them.
Dr. J’s ABA Career
Erving left college in 1971 and signed as an undrafted free agent with the Virginia Squires of the American Basketball Association (ABA). He quickly made the switch to playing forward in the professional game. In his rookie season, Erving averaged over 27 points per game, earning him spots on the ABA All-Rookie Team and the All-ABA Second Team.
Erving’s career took a complicated turn in the spring of 1972. He was chosen by the Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Association (NBA) as the 12th overall pick, but he chose to sign a contract with the Atlanta Hawks and train with them in the preseason. The Squires, however, swiftly filed court papers asking that he be prohibited from participating in NBA competition, and a three-judge panel concurred, sending him back to the ABA.
Erving rejoined his former league and remained its leading star. He played for the Squires during the 1972–1973 season before joining the New York Nets, where he led the team to championships in 1974 and 1976. For each of those seasons, he was also given the Most Valuable Player honor.
Not only was he praised for his scoring, but also his overall performance. Erving entered the court with a quick and athletic style that included graceful spins, dramatic jump shots, and strong slam dunks. Erving won the first-ever dunk contest held by a professional league in 1976, his final season in the ABA and the league’s final year of existence.
Erving’s NBA Career
The cash-strapped Nets sold Erving to the Philadelphia 76ers for $3 million when the ABA was merged into the NBA in 1976. In Philly, Erving quickly contributed to the team’s transformation into a winning machine and how it impacted the playoffs in the last 10 years.
The Philadelphia 76ers quickly advanced through the playoffs in 1976–1977 to the NBA Finals, where they were defeated by the Portland Trail Blazers in six games. After making it to the NBA semifinals for two consecutive seasons, in 1980, Erving led Philadelphia to the championship game, where the Los Angeles Lakers and rookie point guard Earvin Magic Johnson defeated them. While L.A. got the trophy, Erving claimed the series’ most memorable moment in Game 4 when he deftly moved the ball with an underhanded scoop into the basket after gliding past several defenders in midair. The Baseline Move is the name given to the play over time.
Despite winning Most Valuable Player the season after, Erving’s team was unable to advance to the championship game due to a lack of supporting players. After another devastating loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals in 1982, the Philadelphia 76ers reorganized their lineup for the following season by acquiring Houston Rocket Moses Malone through trade.
The 1982–83 campaign was nearly perfect for Erving and his teammates. Philadelphia dominated the playoffs after finishing the regular season with a 65-17 record, only dropping one game, and sweeping the Lakers in the championship series in four games. But the succeeding few years were less prosperous. Philadelphia, led by the forward Charles Barkley, began to make the switch to a younger team due to their aging roster. Erving retired after the 1986–87 campaign. He participated in more than 800 games overall and was a part of 11 NBA All-Star teams. Erving had a career point total of more than 30,000 between his time in the NBA and ABA. In 1993, Erving was chosen for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Dr. J’s Post-Basketball Career
Erving has maintained a close connection to the game ever since he stopped participating in it. He has held positions as an executive for the Orlando Magic as well as a sports analyst for the NBC television network. He has pursued numerous additional business opportunities.
The father of eight children is Erving. In 2008, he wed Dorys Madden, his second spouse. Together, the couple has three kids.