NBA TV's latest documentary explores the legend of 'Dr J.'

theGRIO REPORT - NBA TV's new documentary The Doctor overflows with incredible adjectives, stories and highlights of the Hall-of-Fame basketball career of Julius 'Dr. J' Erving...

Dr. J was bad. And so cool.

NBA TV’s new documentary The Doctor overflows with incredible adjectives, stories and highlights of the Hall-of-Fame basketball career of Julius ‘Dr. J’ Erving. The film, which follows up on the success of last year’s look at the famous 1992 Dream Team, explores how Erving became the legend he is known as today.

In an era without social media and instant YouTube highlight reels, Erving built his early reputation by word of mouth. He dazzled on New York’s playgrounds and the courts of the ABA without any of the fanfare that today greets players who haven’t even reached high school.

Here are 5 of the film’s most intriguing moments:

1)  Family loss fueled Dr J’s competitive flare

Certain athletes just have an edge about them. Maybe it’s how they play or the dedication they show in their respective sport. Part of Erving’s ‘edge’ which led him to a wildly successful basketball career is rooted in his relationship with his younger brother Marvin.

Separated by just three years, the two brothers were a constant duo on and off the basketball court growing up. Erving reveals in the film that Marvin was often sick, suffering from asthma and occasionally breaking out with rashes.

“That made me more protective,” Erving says of his brother’s bouts with sickness. “Subbing in for the father’s role and being more than a big brother.”

The two were incredibly close and their bond remained strong even as Julius went off to the University of Massachusetts to play basketball. Marvin visited him on campus his freshman year and Julius remembers his brother complaining about joint pain.

Once Marvin’s visit ended and he returned home to Long Island, he was hospitalized and diagnosed with lupus. Erving also returned home some months later when his brother’s condition worsened. At the hospital, Erving remembers his brother’s last words:

“I’m really tired,” Erving recalls in one of the more poignant moments in the film. “[The angels] need to come and get me.”

Overwhelmed but not defeated, Erving used his brother’s death as momentum to push forward. He returned to UMass for his sophomore season and dominated.

“When I line up against an opponent who is only thinking of [facing me], now I got two spirits in there,” Erving said. “I got mine. I got my brother’s. I have a slight advantage.”

In two varsity seasons at UMass, Erving averaged 26 points and 20 rebounds. His next stop would be the American Basketball Association.

2) Respect from the basketball world 

You knew Magic Johnson would be all over a documentary about Julius Erving. And sure enough, he serves up one of the film’s most memorable lines:

“When greatness meets class, that’s what God created in Dr. J.”

Following the Sixers’ loss to Portland in the 1977 NBA Finals, Erving instructed his teammates to enter the visitors’ locker room to congratulate the champs. His teammate World B. Free couldn’t believe it and would have preferred to start a fight instead. But Erving’s diplomacy prevailed and his team joined him.

He is just that cool.

When Erving announced that the 1986 season would be his last, the basketball world took note and paid homage. Charles Barkley, a teammate of Erving’s for three seasons in Philadelphia, said playing with Doc was like “being around royalty.”

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The Doctor shows retirement ‘celebrations’ opposing teams held for Erving during the regular season. All-time greats like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Larry Bird honoring Erving at center court is a testament to both his greatness and the way Erving carried himself on and off the court. The Nets franchise retired his #32.

In his first season in the NBA, Erving adjusted his game for the greater good of his team. He averaged a modest-by-his-standards 21.6 points per game, which was behind his ex-ABA mates David Thompson and George Gervin. When asked about Thompson and Gervin scoring more than him, Erving responded in classic form:

“Well scoring is an individual statistic and I think the objectives of the team are things that have to be paramount and have to come first,” Erving said.

How can you not respect that?

When the Sixers captured their first NBA Championship, Lakers coach Pat Riley came into their locker room to personally congratulate Erving.

“You give those who really deserve it their just due when it’s time,” Riley said. I couldn’t agree more.

A statue of Erving stood outside of The Spectrum, the Sixers’ former home before it was demolished in 2009. There’s a new entertainment complex there now but the statue remains.