Julius Winfield Erving II, commonly known by the nickname Dr. J, is a retired American basketball player who helped launch a modern style of play that emphasizes leaping and play above the rim. Erving helped legitimize the American Basketball Association, and was the best-known player in that league when it merged with the National Basketball Association after the 1975Ã¢â‚¬â€œ76 season.
Erving won three championships, four Most Valuable Player Awards, and three scoring titles with the ABA's Virginia Squires and New York Nets and the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers. He is the fifth-highest scorer in ABA/NBA history with 30,026 points. He was well known for slam dunking from the free throw line in Slam Dunk Contests and was the only player voted Most Valuable Player in both the American Basketball Association and the National Basketball Association.
Erving was inducted in 1993 into the Basketball Hall of Fame and was also named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time team. In 1994, Erving was named by Sports Illustrated as one of the 40 most important athletes of all time. In 2004, he was inducted into the Nassau County Sports Hall of Fame. Most observers consider him one of history's most talented players; he is also widely acknowledged as one of the game's best dunkers. While Connie Hawkins, "Jumping" Johnny Green, Elgin Baylor, and Gus Johnson performed spectacular dunks before Erving's time, "Dr. J" brought the practice into the mainstream. 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 "cross-over" dribble and the "no look" pass. Before Julius Erving, dunking was a practice most commonly used by the big men 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, 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.