American former flamboyant and skillful basketball player Julius Irving, known by the nickname “Dr. J.,” was a basketball star in high school and college before helping legitimize the now-defunct American Basketball Association (ABA), in which he became one of most talented players and one of their biggest draws. During his seasons with the ABA (1971-1976), Erving won three MVP trophies, two championships and three scoring titles while playing with the Virginia Squires and New York Nets, and still holds the ABA career record for highest scoring average in a minimum of 250 games. After the demise of ABA, he continued his career with the NBA where he played another eleven years for the Philadelphia 76ers from 1976 until his retirement in 1987. He was voted the NBA MVP in 1981 and helped the 76ers win a championship in 1983.
The fifth-highest scorer in professional basketball history with 30,026 points (NBA and ABA combined), Erving was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993 and the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame in 1995. In 2004, he also became an inductee of the Nassau County Sports Hall of Fame. Thanks to his great achievement, one of the “50 Greatest Players in NBA History” (1996) has been considered by many as one of the most spectacular basketball players ever and is among the best dunkers, along with Michael Jordan, Vince Carter and Dominique Wilkins. “The Tomahawk” was Erving's signature dunk.
Apart from his impressive career on court, Erving has starred in the film “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh” (1979) and acted in episodes of TV series. Following his retirement from basketball, he became a successful businessman.
Erving had been married to Turquoise Brown for 31 years when they divorced in 2004. He is the father of four, including American pro tennis player Alexandra Stevenson. Erving is an avid philanthropist.
Childhood and Family:
Julius Winfield Erving II was born on February 22, 1950, in Hempstead, Long Island. His father left the family when Julius was three years old. As a result, he and his two siblings were raised in a public housing project with their single mother working as a domestic in order to bestow a sense of dignity to the children. When Julius was 13, his mother remarried and they relocated to nearby Roosevelt, New York. He attended Roosevelt High School where he excelled in academics and basketball, a talent that he considered as a way to a better life. It was there that Julius received the nickname “the Doctor,” which his teammates would later change to “Dr. J.” After graduating, Julius enrolled at the University of Massachusetts in 1968, where he continued playing basketball.
Julius was married to Turquoise Brown from 1973 to 2004. They have four children together. He is the father of professional tennis player Alexandra Stevenson. Julius' youngest son, Corey, accidentally drowned in 2000.
“With black kids, it's always a struggle for pride. Basketball was my way out. I worked hard to make sure it was.” Julius Erving
Growing up in a housing project, Julius Erving saw basketball as a ticket to a better life and worked hard to fulfill his dreams. By age 10, he was averaging 11 points a game with his Salvation Army team. Erving started to flourish in high school where he played for the school team. He participated in statewide tournaments and won various awards while playing on all-county and Long Island teams.
Known by the nickname “Dr. J,” Erving went on to play for the University of Massachusetts after high school. He led his team through an undefeated season and created freshman records for scoring and rebounding with averaging 26.3 points and 20.2 rebounds per game, which made Erving one of the only five players to average more than 20 points and 20 rebounds per game in NCAA Men's Basketball. In his next season, Erving ranked second in rebounding in the country. He also spent the season touring Western Europe and the Soviet Union with an NCAA all-star team and was named Most Valuable Player on the tour.
After two years, Erving left the university to go professional. He joined the Virginia Squires of the American Basketball Association (ABA) in 1971 as an undergraduate free agent. At the time, the ABA was struggling to gain the same recognition as the more accomplished National Basketball Association (NBA). Erving became a dominant force for the Squires and became well-known for his hard and ruthless dunking. In his first season, he averaged 27.3 points per game in scoring, was selected to the All-ABA Second Team and reached No. 2 at the ABA Rookie of the Year lists. He also led the team into the Eastern Division Finals, but they were defeated by the New York Nets.
When he became worthy for the NBA draft in 1972, Erving was picked by the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round. But, he signed with the Atlanta Hawks before the 1972-73 seasons. He took part in three exhibition games with Pete Maravich, but because of legal bidding, he returned to the ABA and the Squares. During this comeback, he scored 31.9 points per game.
In 1973, due to financial problems, Erving was traded to the New York Nets, a move that finally sent the Squares into limbo. With his new team, the talented player became even more recognized. He led the Nets to their first ABA championship title in 1974 by defeating the Utah Stars, and later regained the victory in 1976. He also led the league in scoring and was named the ABA Most Valuable Player from 1974 to 1976.
Erving moved to the Philadelphia 76ers of the NBA when the ABA emerged with the NBA after the 1976 season. Subsequently, he led the 76ers to the NBA Finals where they lost to the Portland Trail Blazers. The team went on to undergo a series of disappointing moments, though Erving did win the title of the NBA MVP in 1981. During that period, Erving appeared in TV commercials and in 1979 he starred in his feature film called “The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh,” a basketball comedy directed by Gilbert Moses.
In 1983, Erving led the 76ers to an NBA championship, in which they beat the Lakers. When he retired from basketball four years later in 1987, he had scored over 30,000 points in his pro career, making him one of only three players in the history of the game to achieve this accomplishment.
Following his retirement, Erving for a time became a commentator for NBC. He also launched a career as a businessman. He has served on the Board of Directors of Converse (before filing for bankruptcy in 2001), Darden Restaurants, Inc., Saks Incorporated and The Sports Authority. Currently, he is on the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Coca-Cola Bottling Company and Meridian Bancorp. In addition, he became the president of management and marketing firm JDREGI.
NBA: MVP (Most Valuable Player), 1981