“I am, I think in a moment of giddy fantasy,
an artist, like James Brown, like Otis, like Jimi even.
Only my song, my art, is basketball.”
Say Dr. J’s name and watch those who know glaze over and practically tear up with reverential nostalgia. Well before Michael Jordan, a generation before Kobe Bryant, there was The Doctor. Simply put, Dr. J was the most graceful athlete the world had ever seen. The way Erving revolutionized the game of basketball will always be one of the most remarkable storylines in all of sports.
He may have emerged from the pre-ESPN, pre-Jordan, pre-Internet, the pre-everything primordial ooze of 1970s ABA basketball but a combination of soulful flair and breathtaking athleticism helped transform Dr. J into a global, pop culture icon.
No small feat considering the absence of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and all the other social media engines that connect our world today. Yes, Erving’s talent was that immense, his cult of personality that bloody riveting. There were players before him who could levitate, but Erving was the first to do it in a way that seemed, in a word, otherworldly. His style and grace both on and off the court led many to call him an American treasure.