HBP 1969-73: Net Points

SWC75

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NET POINTS

1969-70 NBA
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milwaukee 2475 (33.6)
Elvin Hayes, San Diego 2234 (29.3)
Billy Cunningham, Philadelphia 2138 (32.1)
Wes Unseld, Baltimore 2092 (31.1)
Jerry West, Los Angeles 2061 (31.9)
Connie Hawkins, Phoenix 2043 (29.6)
John Havlicek, Boston 1995 (28.4)
Willis Reed, New York 1959 (30.4)
Bill Bridges, Atlanta 1842 (27.0)
Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati 1826 (30.6)

1969-70 ABA
Spencer Haywood, Denver 2702 (34.1)
Red Robbins, New Orleans 1810 (26.6)
Mel Daniels, Indianapolis 1692 (26.7)
Donald Sidle, Miami 1591 (21.9)
Roger Brown, Indianapolis 1580 (21.7)
John Beasley, Dallas 1533 (24.0)
Manny Leaks, Dallas 1486 (23.1)
Mike Lewis, Pittsburgh 1447 (25.7)
Bob Netolicky, Indianapolis 1420 (21.2)
Gerald Govan, New Orleans 1411 (18.3)

1970-71 NBA
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Mil 2924 (42.7)
Wilt Chamberlain, Los Angeles 2500 (33.1)
John Havlicek, Boston 2262 (29.5)
Jerry Lucas, San Francisco 2191 (32.3)
Elvin Hayes, San Diego 2181 (29.9)
Nate Thurmond, San Francisco 1910 (27.4)
Billy Cunningham, Philadelphia 1890 (29.4)
Jerry West, Los Angeles 1864 (31.4)
Wes Unseld, Baltimore 1832 (30.3)
Oscar Robertson, Milwaukee 1827 (27.4)

1970-71 ABA
Dan Issel, Kentucky 2051 (30.1)
Mel Daniels, Indiana 2041 (25.8)
Zelmo Beatty, Utah 1945 (32.0)
John Brisker, Pittsburgh 1551 (24.1)
Mike Lewis, Pittsburgh 1510 (26.4)
Julius Keye, Denver 1502 (19.8)
Mack Calvin, Florida 1391 (19.7)
Larry Jones, Florida 1383 (18.4)
Roger Brown, Indianapolis 1372 (19.6)
Cincy Powell, Kentucky 1358 (22.2)

1971-72 NBA
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Mil 3215 (43.1)
Wilt Chamberlain, Los Angeles 2347 (32.5)
John Havlicek, Boston 2204 (28.6)
Bob Lanier, Detroit 2166 (33.6)
Elvin Hayes, Houston 1995 (27.7)
Nate Thurmond, Golden State 1971 (28.1)
Nate Archibald, Cincinnati 1946 (28.5)
Jerry West, Los Angeles 1927 (31.1)
Sidney Wicks, Portland 1883 (27.9)
Wes Unseld, Baltimore 1871 (28.3)

1971-72 ABA
Artis Gilmore, Kentucky 2353 (30.8)
Julius Erving, Virginia 2263 (30.9)
Dan Issel, Kentucky 1987 (26.7)
Zelmo Beatty, Utah 1945 (29.8)
Rick Barry, New York 1767 (23.5)
Mel Daniels, Indiana 1688 (27.3)
Willie Wise, Utah 1648 (24.0)
Jim McDaniels, Carolina 1338 (29.6)
Charlie Scott, Virginia 1308 (20.5)
Mike Lewis, Pittsburgh 1306 (23.9)

1972-73 NBA
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Mil 2765 (40.8)
Tiny Archibald, KC-Omaha 2447 (31.9)
Wilt Chamberlain, Los Angeles 2401 (32.5)
Bob Lanier, Detroit 2180 (33.2)
Spencer Haywood, Seattle 2159 (31.8)
Dave Cowens, Boston 2080 (29.2)
Nate Thurmond, Golden State 1972 (27.7)
Wes Unseld, Baltimore 1934 (30.1)
Sidney Wicks, Portland 1893 (28.8)
John Havlichek, Boston 1804 (25.7)

1972-73 ABA
Artis Gilmore, Kentucky 2181 (29.6)
Dan Issel, Kentucky 1958 (29.9)
Billy Cunningham, Carolina 1942 (28.7)
Julius Erving, Virginia 1863 (29.9)
George McGinnis, Indiana 1591 (22.8)
Mel Daniels, Indiana 1577 (24.4)
Bud Netolicky, Dallas 1447 (20.4)
Willie Wise, Utah 1405 (21.5)
Dave Roblsch, Denver 1271 (23.0)
Zelmo Beatty, Utah 1252 (21.4)

TOP TEN FOR 1969-73 (10 points for 1st, 9 for 2nd, etc.)
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 40
Dan Issel 27
Wilt Chamberlain 26
Mel Daniels 26
John Havlicek 21
Elvin Hayes 21
Billy Cunningham 20
Artis Gilmore 20
Zelmo Beatty 17
Julius Erving 16
Spencer Haywood 16

Comment: Kareem was absolutely the most productive single player of the early 70’s but he was unable to establish his team as the new dynasty in the sport. That would come in the following decade and that had as much to do with Magic Johnson as Kareem. The most exciting new player was Julius Erving but his career didn’t begin until 1971-72 and he was in the ABA, which was not on TV.

HISTORICAL TOP TEN after 1973
Wilt Chamberlain 126
Dolph Schayes 93
Bill Russell 86
Bob Pettit 81
Oscar Robertson 76
George Mikan 72
Bobby McDermott 65
Neil Johnston 61
Leroy Edwards 58
Benny Borgmann 57

Comment: These are the same players that were in the HISTORICAL TOP TEN after 1969. The only changes were that Wilt went from 100 points to 126 and Oscar went from 74 to 76. The players of the 60’s were seeing their careers wind down but Benny Borgmann, the top player from the 20’s and 30’s is still on the list. Elgin Baylor ended at 55 points. Mel Daniels has 39 and the ABA still has several years to go. Poor Connie Hawkins had 32 points in his –on—and-off career. What would he have had in a full run? Jerry Lucas has 51 points but just one more year as a reserve. Nate Thurmond has 30 points but only a couple more years as a regular. Jerry West has 33 points and just one more year to go. It’s tough for guards. But Kareem is going to storm the list, maybe all the way to the top. Elvin Hayes will have a long, productive career. And Dr. J will be the wonder of his generation.
 

SWC75

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THE PLAYERS

KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR, originally LEW ALCINDOR was to be the next in line of the big men who had dominated the game, displacing George Mikan, Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain. And he had a tremendous career, winding up pro basketball’s all-time leading scorer, passing Chamberlain with 31,419 points. His famed “sky hook” became as famous as Chamberlain’s dunks and Russell’s blocks and fast breaks. Kareem was so tall and so long that the shot was basically unblockable and deadly accurate. He wound up the 4th best rebounder with 17,440, behind Chamberlain, Russell and Moses Malone. He had more assists than Chamberlain, who once led the league in assists, 5,660 to 4,643. They didn’t keep track of blocks his first four years but he wound up third all-time with 3,189 to Dikembe Mutumbo’s 3,289 and Hakeem Olajuwon 3,820, both of who had blocks as an official stat their entire careers. Kareem had 283 blocks in the first year they kept track of them, so he easily could have bene #1. Of course Russell and Chamberlain never had a block formally recorded in their careers. Kareem wound up with 6 championship rings- 1 with the Bucks and 5 with the Lakers.

Still, he never became the dominant force his predecessors did. The expected dynasty with the Bucks evaporated, even though the Bucks averaged 57 wins a year in the six years he was there, easily the best in the league in that time, (the Celtics averaged 53, the Knicks 51, the Lakers and Bulls 50), but they won only the one championship while the Knicks and Celtics won two each and the Lakers, with the aging Chamberlain, had the best season. When he joined the Lakers, the team averaged 46 wins a year and never made it to the finals until Magic Johnson arrived. Then came 8 trips to the finals in 10 years, 5 championships and an average of 59 regular season wins a year. The first of the five championships was won with Kareem unable to play and Johnson playing his positon – and scoring 42 points. Kareem was an important piece but it was Magic who put the puzzle together.

Kareem’s remarkable statistical accomplishments are largely the result of what I consider to be his outstanding career accomplishment: in a sport where careers typically last 10-12 years, he played for 20 years, starting all the way. He averaged 24.6 points per game for his career, with a high of 34.8. Wilt, even with his change of style in the second half of his career, averaged 30.1 with a high of 50.4. Kareem averaged 11.2 rebounds, with a high of 16.9. Wilt averaged 22.9 rebounds with a high of 27.2. Russell won 11 championships in 13 years and was the primary reason for every one of those titles. Kareem won 1 title in his first 10 years and then 5 with Magic running the team. I think a big part of Kareem’s failure to “measure up” to his predecessors in this regard relates to changes in the game over the course of his career. The game moved away from working the offense around the center to giving the ball to wing players. Kareem actually adapted to this and worked very well with Magic, James Worthy and the other “Showtime” Lakers. But there was no way he was going to match Wilt’s or Bill’s accomplishments in the modern game. He would have been more dominant a generation earlier. When the game briefly returned to the centers during Michael Jordan’s baseball sabbatical, Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing and Shaquille O’Neal were in the finals and everybody complained how ugly the games were. Basketball had moved on.

Kareem was actually more interesting off the court than he was on. He was a scholar, a social activist, a Sherlock Holmes buff, an expert on jazz, a sometime actor, an author, a historian. He converted to Islam but wasn’t a Black Muslim: “At age 24 in 1971, he converted to Islam and became Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, which means “the noble one, servant of the Almighty. He was named by Hamaas Abdul Khaalis. Abdul-Jabbar purchased and donated 7700 16th Street NW, a house in Washington, D.C. for Khaalis to use as the Hanafi Madh-Hab Center.” Eventually, Kareem "found that he disagreed with some of Hamaas’ teachings about the Quran, and they parted ways." (Wikipedia) That was before this happened:
1977 Washington, D.C. attack and hostage taking - Wikipedia

“Abdul-Jabbar spoke about the thinking that was behind his name change when he converted to Islam. He stated that he was "latching on to something that was part of my heritage, because many of the slaves who were brought here were Muslims. My family was brought to America by a French planter named Alcindor, who came here from Trinidad in the 18th century. My people were Yoruba, and their culture survived slavery... My father found out about that when I was a kid, and it gave me all I needed to know that, hey, I was somebody, even if nobody else knew about it. When I was a kid, no one would believe anything positive that you could say about black people. And that's a terrible burden on black people, because they don't have an accurate idea of their history, which has been either suppressed or distorted.” (Wikipedia)

He recently published an article about the current state of politics in this country:
Trump's opponents have the moral high-ground. Let's not squander it | Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
He may not have been the greatest or most dominant player but he would be the most interesting to talk to.



DAN ISSEL was a classic power forward in the Bob Pettit mold who could also play center, (but didn’t have to when 7-2 Artis Gilmore showed up). Like most of the ABA stars his best years had already passed when the top BA teams moved to the NBA. He also was playing for Denver by then and their games tended to be played too late at night for the east to get to know Dan. But he was a great basketball player. Dan averaged 28.3 ppg and 11.4 rpg in his first four years. He had a long career of his own, (15 years) but his output declined enough that his averages those last 11 years were a still credible but less spectacular 20.4/8.3. He was a six-time ABA All-Star and one-time NBA All-Star, which charts his career very well. “He missed only 24 games in 15 seasons, earning him the moniker, "the Horse". He was part of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 1993.” (Wikipedia)

Some highlights, which focus on his passing ability:
Dan Issel (19pts/9rebs/5asts) vs. ABA All-Stars (1976)
He seems to have had unusually large hands, enabling his to not only catch the ball well but to throw accurate one-handed passes, especially to start fast breaks.

A lengthy interview with Dan: Dan Issel - 60 Days of Summer 2017 interview


JOHN HAVLICEK spent much of his career known as the world’s greatest “sixth man”, a player who could come off the bench to spark the team. He didn’t originate that roll- his predecessor was Frank Ramsey. Unlike Ramsey, Havlicek matured into a full-scale star and became the centerpiece, with Dave Cowens, for the Celtics revival following the retirement of Bill Russell. After years of scoring 18-20 points a game for championship teams, he became one of the league’s leading scorers in a full-time role, scoring as many as 28.9 ppg (with 9.0 rebounds and 7.5 assists) in 1970-71. And he was certainly capable of going full time- better than anyone. His lungs were freakishly large – it took two ex-rays to examine them. His heart beat was in the low 40’s per minute, (from 60-100 is the normal range). He could play 45 minutes a game at full tilt, running back and forth and from side-to-side the whole game and daring defenders to keep up with him. Havlicek could run the court and finish on fast breaks with the best of them. He could hit shots from outside or drive to the basket with a quick first step. He had a nose for where the ball was- or would be when he got there. And he was an excellent passer. He was the perfect guy for the Celtics’ “hit-the-open-man” offense. And he could use the same skills to make him a superb defender. He wound up playing for 8 NBA championship and was a big reason each of those teams won.

Highlights: John "Hondo" Havlicek: Career Mixtape

John Havlicek vs. Reggie Jackson, (Reggie Jackson?), on “Greatest Sports legends.
John Havlicek one on one vs Reggie Jackson - incredible endurance explained


ELVIN HAYES lived out a great career in the shadow of a greater player. He was the star player of a series of great teams the University of Houston had in the late 60’s, going to two straight Final Fours and losing to Lew Alcindor’s UCLA Bruins in the semi-finals each year. In his junior year he had 25 points and 24 rebounds in a 58-73 loss to the Bruins. In his senior year, the Cougars beat UCLA 71-69 in the most hyped regular season game ever In front of a record 52,693 fans. Intersectional games were rarer then and both teams were undefeated and ranked #1, (UCLA, 13-0, who had won 47 games in a row) and #2 (Houston, 16-0). Alcindor had been poked in the eye in a previous game and made just 4 of 18 shots, with three of the misses being blocked by Hayes, who was on fire the whole game, scoring 39 points and pulling down 15 rebounds.

Game of the Century (college basketball) - Wikipedia

1968 Game of the Century

Huston went on to a 31-0 record with a #1 national ranking until they again met the Bruins, with a fully healthy Alcindor in the NCAA finals. The UCLA players had spent two months hearing about how Houston beat them and Alcindor had the Sports Illustrated cover devoted to hat game in his locker. They came out and played the greatest game I have ever seen a college team play. John Wooden used a diamond and one to hold the “Big E” to 10 shots, of which he made only 3. Hayes played 39 minute but scored only 10 points with 5 rebounds. UCLA took a 12-4 lead, let it get to 20-19, then went off on a 27-0 run. They led by 22 at the half and eventually doubled that before “settling” for a 101-68 in over a #1 ranked 31-0 team. SI: “If they had not used many substitutes in the last five or six minutes, the Bruins would have won by 50 or 60 points.” Alcindor didn’t have a great game but he had a good one with 19 points and 18 rebounds. He didn’t need to do any more than that. His teammates did the rest.

This, unfortunately, is silent but you can still follow the game and see UCLA’s excellent passing and pressure defense:
1968 National Semifinal - UCLA vs. Houston


Hayes got to the NBA a year before Alcindor and was the 1968-69 Rookie of the year, playing for the San Diego Rockets and scoring a league best 28.4 ppg and 17.1 rpg. He went on to a long and productive career but his years with the Rockets were frustrating because the team, which moved to Houston in his final year with them, just wasn’t good. In four years, they never had a winning record and only made the playoffs once. Then he was traded to the Bullets and things changed almost immediately. He found himself playing next to Wes Unseld, a fellow All-American whose Louisville teams had been the only comparably successful UCLA rival. The Bullets with Hayes and Unseld had 7 straight winning records, made the playoffs every year and made it to the NBA finals three times, finally winning Elvin his first title since high school in 1978. After that Elvin and the Bullets began to fade and he played his last three years with the Rockets in Houston. You don’t hear a lot about him these days but he was a great player in his day. He is still pro basketball’s 12th all-time leading scorer and the #6 rebounder, averaging 21.0/12.5 over a 16 year career.

Vintage NBA-Elvin Hayes


BILLY CUNNINGHAM was known as the “Kangaroo Kid”. He could score but he was an excellent rebounder for his size and a fine all-around player. He started out being the 76’s answer to Havlicek, coming off the bench to spark the team. He was bigger than Havlicek at 6-6, (some sources say 6-7) and 210-220. He got a starting job about the same time Havlicek did and took just as much advantage of it. In his best season, 1969-70 when he averaged 26.1 ppg and 13.6 rpg. Unfortunately Wilt had left and the Sixer were in their famous decline from 68-13 in 1966-67 to 9-73 in 1972-73. Billy had left for the ABA by then, putting up similar numbers of the Carolina Cougars who had the league’s best record at 57-25 that year but lost in the semi-finals. Billy was MVP with 24.1/12.0 and 6.3 assists. Unfortunately he was not to have the long and productive career that Havlicek did, injuries limiting him to 32 games in 1973-74 and ending it after 20 games in 1975-76. By that time, he was back with the Sixers. He went on to become the Sixer’s coach and led them to the finals three times, each against the Showtime Lakers, losing in 1980 and 1982 but winning in 1983. Billy had a fabulous regular season record of 560-254 in eight years as the Sixer coach, winning 50+ games seven times and 60+ twice. He later was a part owner of the Miami Heat.

SON OF THE CITY: BILLY CUNNINGHAM

A radio interview with Billy: Billy Cunningham


ARTIS GILMORE shot into prominence in the 1969-70 college basketball season. He was the same size as Lew Alcindor- possibly a bit bigger at 7-2, 240. He went to tiny Jacksonville University in Florida, a school most fans had never heard of and few have heard of since. He’d come there from Gardner-Webb junior College and joined another 7 footer, Pembroke Burrows and a high scoring forward named Rex Morgan. This team went 23-1 through an undemanding regular season schedule, breaking Syracuse’s scoring record and becoming the first major college team to average 100 points a game at 100.2.

No one knew what to expect when they were given a spot in what then a 25 team NCAA tournament. They got through the regionals in a series of amazing games: a 109-96 win over Western Kentucky with 7-0 All-American Jim McDaniels, a 104-103 win over Big 10 champion Iowa and a 106-105 win over #1 ranked and SEC champion Kentucky with Artis’ future Kentucky Colonels teammate Dan Issel. There should have been another great confrontation with St. Bonaventure’s greatest ever team with 6-11 270 Bob Lanier but Bob was injured in the Eastern Regional finals against Villanova and couldn’t play in the Final Four. (I’ve often wondered how those two did against each other in their confrontations in the pros). The rest of the Bonnies played very credibly in losing 83-91 to the Dolphins.

That put Jacksonville into the finals against mighty UCLA. But who was the mighty one? It was Jacksonville who had the 7 footers. The Bruins no longer had Alcindor. Instead their center was 6-9 Steve Patterson. Their stars were forwards Sidney Wicks, (6-8) and Curtis Rowe (6-6). John Wooden had to figure out how to overcome the other team’s height advantage for a change. He put Patterson behind Gilmore and fronted him with Wicks. Artis had 19 points and 16 rebounds but missed 20 of 29 shots. Morgan, the team’s assist as well as scoring leader, had 11 assists but 8 turnovers. UCLA won and their incredible streak of national titles continued.

Artis had averaged 26.5 ppg 22.2 rpg as a junior and followed that up with 21.9/23.2 as a senior. The NCAA started keeping track of blocks that year and Artis led the country with 10.3. Yes, he blocked 10 shots a game! Unfortunately, his supporting cast was not quite as good and the Dolphins finished 22-4, Losing to McDaniel’s Hilltoppers in the first round 72-74. Artis then moved on to the pros and the Dolphins have made it to only three NCAA tournaments since, the last in 1986. They lost in the first round each time.

Artis was drafted by the Chicago Bulls of the NBA and the Kentucky colonels of the ABA. He decided to go to the Colonels, who immediately became a powerhouse. He was both MVP and rookie of the year as his team roared to a 68-16 record, the best in the league’s short history. He averaged 23.8 ppg and led the league with 17.8 rpg while blocking 5 shots a game. Unfortunately, the Colonels were upset in the playoffs by the Nets. The next year Gilmore put up similar numbers. The Colonels fell to 56-28 and made the finals, where they lost to the Pacers in 7 games. Then they went 53-31 and lost to the Nets again in the eastern finals. Then they tied the Nets at 58-26 but won the league championship, beating the Pacers in 5 games. In the league’s final year the Colonels slipped to 46-38, largely because Issel was traded to the Nuggets, who beat the Colonels in the semi-finals.

The Colonels were not one of the teams chosen for the jump to the NBA and Artis wound up with the Bulls after all. Ne made the NBA All-Star game four times in his five seasons in Chicago, then was traded to San Antonio, where he made the All-Star game twice more before returning to the Bulls and then moving on to the Celtics to complete an 18 year career in pro basketball. Not only would it be interesting to know the stats of his battles with Bob Lanier but it would be interesting to see how he matched up against Kareem. They were of a similar size and played together in the NBA for a dozen seasons. Kareem was the greater scorer because of that sky hook, 24.6-18.8, (highs of 34.8-24.6). But Artis was the better rebounder, 12.3-11.2, (highs of 18.3-16.8). Kareem actually blocked more shots, 2.6-2.4 but the highs were 5.0 for Artis in that first year, (in the ABA) to 4.1. Kareem was the better passer 3.6 assists to 2.3, had more steals 0.9-0.6, had fewer turnovers 2.7-3.1 and committed fewer fouls , 3.0-3.4. Artis actually out-shot him from the field, 58.2% to 55.9% but took only 12 shots a game to 18. They were both good free throw shooters for big men, Artis 69.8% and Kareem 72.1%. Net points per game? 22.8 for Artis, Kareem 27.6. Championships? Artis- 1 in the ABA, Kareem 6 in the NBA.
Artis was not Kareem but you could sure build a team around him at center.

Artis vs. Kareem:
Kareem (28 pts, 10 rebs, 4 ast, 2 stl, 4 blk) vs. Artis (24 pts, 18 rebs, .688 fg%)


ZELMO BEATTY was one of several graduates of historically black colleges who made their mark in pro basketball in the 1960’s. It wasn’t as many as made their mark in pro football but it was still significant. Beatty led Prairie View A&M to the NAIA title in 1962 and was MVP of the tournament. “Zeke” was one of two players from Prairie View to play pro basketball, the other being Guy Manning, who played for the Houston Mavericks in the first two years of the ABA. Beatty was far more successful, playing for 12 years, (he missed one due to one of those NBA-ABA court battles), for two successful teams, the St. Louis/Atlanta Hawks of the NBA and the Utah Stars of the ABA, before finishing up one season with the Lakers. He became a huge rival of the similarly sized and talent Mel Daniels of the Indiana Pacers and they had many battles with each other. Of course Zeke had learned his profession going up against Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Nate Thurmond and the like. Zeke averaged 17.1 points and 10.6 rebounds for his career, although his highs of 23.6/15.7 are probably more informative. He was not a big time shot blocker, judging by the stats complied at the end of his career. Even then 6-9 225 was a bit undersized for a pro center. “A physical player, Beatty led the NBA in personal fouls in 1962–63 and 1965–66, and tied for the league lead in disqualifications during the 1963–64 season.” (Wikipedia)

Zelmo Beaty Scouting Video (Hall of Fame NBA and ABA Center)


JULIUS ERVING was the most exciting player in basketball in the 1970’s. It’s the nature of the sport that that doesn’t automatically mean the greatest player. You could argue that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the greatest player because of his combination of scoring, rebounding and blocking shots. But Doctor J was the one you’d buy a ticket just to see him play. And he put up pretty good numbers, too, scoring as many as 31.9 ppg in his second season and 15.7 rpg in his first, (pretty good for someone 6-7 210). He wasn’t Magic Johnson but he had 5.5 apg in his fourth season. In a long 17 year a career, he averaged 24.6/8.5/4.2. He’s the only player to be both ABA and NBA MVP and starred for two otherwise entirely different championship teams in each league. He scored 30,026 points, the 8th highest total in history.

Like Joe DiMaggio and Willie Mays, he was about more than the numbers. He was about making spectacular plays using his large hands that could make the basketball seem like a soft ball. He could jump through the roof and adjust what he was doing in mid-air. Wikipedia: “His signature dunk was the "slam" dunk, since incorporated into the vernacular and basic skill set of the game in the same manner as the "crossover" dribble and the "no look" pass. Before Julius Erving, dunking was a practice most commonly used by the big men (usually standing close to the hoop) to show their brutal strength which was seen as style over substance, even unsportsmanlike, by many purists of the game. However, the way Erving utilized the dunk more as a high-percentage shot made at the end of maneuvers generally starting well away from the basket and not necessarily a "show of force" helped to make the shot an acceptable strategy, especially in trying to avoid a blocked shot. Although the slam dunk is still widely used as a show of power, a method of intimidation and a way to fire up a team (and spectators), Dr. J demonstrated that there can be great artistry and almost balletic style to slamming the ball into the hoop, particularly after a launch several feet from that target.”

On his nickname: a childhood friend called him “The Doctor” and in exchange was called “The Professor”. “In the Rucker Park league in Harlem, when people started calling me 'Black Moses' and 'Houdini', I told them if they wanted to call me anything, call me 'Doctor,'" Over time, the nickname evolved into "Dr. Julius," and finally "Dr. J."

Erving was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks and could have played with Kareem and Oscar Robertson. The Bucks were already winning 60 games a year so that would have been a hard combination to beat. Erving was already playing for the Virginia Squires but had discovered his agent was actually working for the Squires and, on his own, signed a contract with the Atlanta Hawks. But a legal injunction forced him to return to the Squires.

Julius Erving ESPN SportsCentury


SPENCER HAYWOOD came out of some place called Trinidad State Junior College, which is actually in Colorado, to save the USA, or at least its hopes of continuing their streak of winning the Gold Medal in Olympic basketball when the top players boycotted the 1968 games. (I remember thinking we’d dodged a bullet and would go back to winning easily four years later in Munich.) Spencer was an athletic 6-8 225 forward-center Haywood provided a much-needed inside presence for a team that had only two other players who went on to star in pro ball: Jo-Jo White and Charlie Scott. He led the team with 16.1 ppg. I don’t have the rebounds and blocked shots but there were plenty of each. Haywood became a national sports hero, contrasted by white America to Lew Alcindor and the others who refused to represent their country in Mexico City. He was a hero –for the moment.

He matriculated at the University of Detroit for his sophomore year. He was from that city and went to Pershing High School, which had produced many college and some pro players. The Titans didn’t have that much of a team – other than Spencer, who averaged 32.1 points and 22.1 rebounds per game. That carried the team to a 16-10 record which, in those days was not good enough to secure a birth in either then NCAA or the NIT. The hero then decided he wanted to make some money and didn’t wat to wait to do it. He would not have been able to do what he did except for the ABA, which was willing to employ him even though his college class had not yet graduated. The NBA did not allow that.

He signed with the Denver Nuggets and it created a firestorm of criticism that the pros were now “raiding” college rosters for talent. Haywood had become the leader of his own rebellion and to many he seemed less heroic for it. To his fellow players, he seemed more heroic. He certainly seemed heroic to the fans of the Denver Rockets, as he averaged 30.0 ppg and 19.5rpg. Unfortunately they could not handle the LA Stars in the western final and lost in five games after winning the opener in overtime.

Spencer now signed a contract with Sam Schulman, the owner of the Seattle Supersonics. His class still hadn’t graduated but Haywood and Schulman wanted to challenge that policy in court. A whole new cascade of out-rage against the ex-hero resulted. Eventually the NBA game in and settled with Haywood and Schulman and that opened the door for college and even high school players to jump to the pros. Haywood had a distinguished if somewhat quiet career with Seattle, averaging 25 points and 12 rebounds a game over five years. He was all-NBA first or second team four times. But the Sonics were not quite ready to win championships and he was traded to the Knicks where he joined Bob McAdoo for a pair of high-scoring forwards. But the team could no longer be kicked without rattling – and neither could Spencer, once he started living the high life in the big town. In three years the Knicks had on winning record than that team got swept by the 76ers by a combined 75 points. As McAdoo would later do, Haywood joined the Lakers in a supporting role and got a ring out of it in 1980. He then played for a year in Italy before returning to play part-time for the Bullets in his last two years. He’d made a significant on-court impact as a player but a greater one off the court.

Underrated: Spencer Haywood
 
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