Julius Erving remains regarded as one of the greatest basketball players. His influence played a significant part in shaping the NBA. However, Erving once revealed the best advice he received came from former Boston Celtics great Bill Russell, and it had nothing to do with basketball.
Julius Erving’s illustrious basketball career
Erving‘s basketball journey took a unique path as he first played professionally with the Virginia Squires in the ABA.
It came about due to the NBA rules not allowing teams to draft players who were less than our years removed from high school.
After being selected with the 12th overall pick in the 1972 NBA Draft, he received his first opportunity to play in the league, but a contract dispute led him to return to the ABA.
Erving then spent four years with the New York Nets, becoming one of the game’s best talents. He led the Nets to two ABA championships while winning three ABA MVP awards and two ABA Playoffs MVP honors.
Erving spent the last 11 seasons of his career with the Philadelphia 76ers, leading the franchise to tremendous success in the NBA. He earned 11 All-Star selections and five All-NBA First Team nods, won a regular-season MVP award and an NBA title.
Erving retired ranked third on the all-time scoring list and made field goals, and first in steals. He’s still recognized as one of the greatest players in NBA history and one of the most influential players of his generation. Through all of that, the best advice he received came from Bill Russell that didn’t concern the game of basketball.
Julius Erving reveals the best advice he ever received came from Bill Russell and had nothing to do with basketball
During Erving‘s time at UMass, he developed a friendship with Bill Russell. In an interview with YES Network’s Michael Kay in December 2013, he revealed the best advice he received from the Celtics great didn’t concern anything on the court.
“In sitting with me once when I was 19 at the campus of UMass, he said, ‘What’s the most important building in the campus?,'” Erving recalled. “I thought it was a trick question and I fell right into it and I said the gym [due to] thinking we were talking about basketball. He said, ‘No, it’s the library.'”
Russell wanted Erving to venture his interest into much more than the game of basketball. His impact reached far beyond any court as he was more than a basketball player. He made a concerted effort to use his elevated platform to bring attention to other matters such as social justice and civil rights.
Beyond that, Russell’s words to a young Erving left a tremendous imprint on him that he still values greatly. He is one of his idols and played a significant part in shaping the person the former 76ers star became.
Bill Russell’s NBA legacy extends off the court
Russell played 13 NBA seasons, where he became the gold standard for success.
The former Celtics great remains recognized as one of the greatest players in league history. Russell won 11 NBA titles and five regular-season MVP awards, earned 12 All-Star game selections, and received 11 All-NBA Team nods. He also became the first black coach in North American sports history and the first to win a championship.
Russell’s influence went far beyond that as he played a role in the civil rights movement. He used his platform to push for social change that has only endeared him further to his peers and the generations of talent that followed. Russell left an everlasting impact on the NBA that forever changed the game on and off the court.