When asked to identify the all-time NBA greats, fans often list players like Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Wilt Chamberlain. A name that’s often overlooked is Hall of Famer Julius Erving, also known as Dr. J. Erving was one of the most skilled, influential players of his time. And his resume stacks up against other all-time legends.
Erving’s legacy continues to resonate with NBA players today. Superstar LeBron James even named Erving one of the three greatest players of all time, along with Jordan and Bird. Let’s look back at Erving’s illustrious NBA career, as well as the direction his life has taken since retiring.
Julius Erving’s NBA achievements
Erving debuted as a pro in 1971, after three years at Massachusetts. At the time, the ABA and NBA hadn’t merged into one entity. Erving played his first five seasons in the ABA — two years with the Virginia Squires and three with the New York Nets. After the ABA/NBA merger in 1976, he spent the rest of his career with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Erving’s ABA years were arguably his best. During the 1972-73 season, the New York native put up a career-high 31.9 points per game along with 12.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.5 steals, and 1.8 blocks. Although the forward never broke the 30-point mark again, he consistently averaged well above 20 points per game.
Ultimately, Erving’s 16 seasons produced career stats of 24.2 points, 8.5 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 2.0 steals, and 1.7 blocks per game. He won two ABA titles and the 1983 NBA championship. Selected to the NBA All-Star team 11 times, Erving won the All-Star Game MVP twice.
Julius Erving’s stylistic legacy
Erving’s NBA accomplishments are impossible to deny, easily placing him among the all-time great players. Aside from sheer numbers, he drastically altered the way the game was played. Before Erving, dunking was only used occasionally by centers. Many fans and sportswriters even considered dunks to be boring or unsportsmanlike.
Erving changed all of this with his high-flying, acrobatic throwdowns. The emphasis on dunks as highlight-reel plays in today’s NBA traces back to Erving. His dunks electrified the league and hugely influenced future NBA players. Simply put, Erving oozed the kind of “cool” that’s now a defining feature of NBA stars.
Erving’s life after the NBA
Unlike many of his peers, Erving has led a full, busy life since retiring from the NBA at the end of the 1986-87 season at age 37. He quickly got involved in business endeavors, buying a Coca-Cola bottling plant and working sporadically as a TV analyst. Erving has also spent time working in NBA front offices and as a part-owner of a NASCAR team.
Although Erving earned only a fraction of what players today take home, his business efforts ensured that he remained in a good place financially. Erving’s net worth was recently estimated at $30 million. He had four children with his ex-wife Turquoise, whom he was married for over 30 years. In 2000, Erving’s son Cory died at age 19 under tragic circumstances.
Although Erving recently fell ill at a 76ers basketball game, he’s generally had good health. He continues to stay active, even coaching a Big3 basketball team. In 2017, Erving said he spent at least 10 days every month on the road with his company, Dr. J Enterprises, making philanthropic and corporate appearances.