Julius ‘Dr. J’ Erving Should Be in the Greatest of All-Time Debate

Julius Erving New York Nets of the American Basketball Assoc. 1975 (Photo by Sporting News/Sporting News via Getty Images)
Julius Erving New York Nets of the American Basketball Assoc. 1975 (Photo by Sporting News/Sporting News via Getty Images) /

A debate that has raged among fans in all sports since the beginning. Who is the greatest to ever play their sport?

In basketball, it has been a constant topic with LeBron James’ utter dominance of the Eastern Conference. Some fans believe that when his career is over, James will be the greatest player ever. But where do players like Julius ‘Dr. J’ Erving fit into this conversation?

Erving recently appeared on Scoop B Radio with Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson and discussed this topic. His opinion on the subject is an interesting one to consider.

"“I think people always make comparisons to people who are done. LeBron may play another six years, LeBron may play one year, we don’t really know. But I think it’s the fans argument, not the players argument. So I stay away from it. My all-time greatest player is Kareem Abdul Jabbar. I think when you add up the numbers and add up the years, nobody has contributed more to the NBA history or pro basketball history. It’s very subjective for you to say Michael or LeBron who was better? Or who was the greatest, the GOAT that is for the fans to argue about.”"

While many tend to agree with the good doctor about this debate, he is not giving himself enough credit. Erving one of the most talented players ever to play the game. And we may very well owe the modern NBA as we know it to him.

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Erving was a star for the New York Nets, leading the franchise to two ABA championships in 1974 and 1976. Erving averaged 27.4 points and 10.7 rebounds per game in 1974 and 29.3 points and 11 rebounds in 1976. These numbers would have put him firmly in the MVP talks in the modern NBA.

These weren’t anomalies either. Erving averaged a double-double in his first five seasons as a professional basketball player in the ABA. Many will argue that “lesser competition” let Erving average these insane numbers, but that’s not true.

Erving only missed averaging 20 points a game in only two of his 16 professional seasons.

His championship ways didn’t end in the ABA either. He led the Philadelphia 76ers to a championship in 1983. Erving won the NBA MVP Award in 1981. ‘The Doctor’ was one of the premier NBA small forwards until he decided to hang up the shoes and his numbers support that.

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While Erving definitely has a case, James’ biggest competition to this title of “GOAT” is usually “His Airness” himself, Michael Jordan. Jordan is widely considered the best player of all-time and for good reason. He is 6-0 in the NBA Finals. Jordan also never played a Game Seven in the NBA Finals.

Not to mention, before the Golden State Warriors record breaking season in 2016, Jordan’s Chicago Bulls held the regular season wins record at 72-10 during the 1996 season. With career averages of 30.1 PPG, 6.2 TRB, 5.3 AST and 2.3 SPG, it is easy to see why many put him at the top.

James has averaged 27.1 PPG, 7.3 TRB, 7.0 AST and 1.6 SPG through his career. Now, no one wants to hear about how James and Jordan are two players that played different positions and have completely different styles of play. But there are other GOATsfor fans to consider.

Wilt Chamberlain and Oscar Robertson get some love, but also seem to get discounted because their era is said to not have the “athleticism” the modern era has. Fans consider them the best players of their era, but they are not serious contenders for the “best ever” because of this stigma.

Some modern players that enter the conversation are Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant. Johnson’s inclusion is purely based off the trajectory of his game before he had his career cut short due to medical issues. Bryant is in there because he was a prolific scorer and the closest thing to Jordan in a time where everyone was looking for the next Jordan.

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A serious contender is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s’ all-time scoring leader and a player that changed the game fundamentally with his freak athleticism. Abdul-Jabbar is also the player that “Dr. J” said he believes is the best ever, so he has earned the right to be ranked among the best.

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The argument may be subjective, but one can’t go wrong if they decide to include “Dr. J” in it.