Julius Erving was a big inspiration to some of the best players we saw in the 80s and 90s in the NBA. Charles Barkley and Michael Jordan were huge admirers of the Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets legend, and the latter had many similarities with the icon.
Dr. J left a huge mark on everybody who watched him play, but he was also delighted to see young players show their qualities as soon as they landed in the league. That was the case with Michael Jordan, who had a few duels with the Doctor early in his career.
Recently, Erving joined Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles on The Players' Tribune's "Knuckleheads" to discuss a variety of topics. Miles asked him about being Jordan's favorite player (1:08:19 mark), with Julius remembering the duels he had with His Airness.
At the time, Jordan was showing flashes of his quality, but Erving saw that he could become the face of the league before a lot of people did.
"MJ and I played against each other — there were three years where we overlapped. I caught him before he really hit his stride. He was scoring a lot of points, but he was trying to find himself. Find the right mix of teammates. There were a lot of things going on during that time."
They even had funny exchanges on the court. Julius recalled that one time Jordan tried to have an in-game slam dunk contest, but Erving's body wasn't the same and couldn't keep up with the Chicago Bulls legend.
"It was funny, because I remember one time he came down and dunked on our whole team … and then I went down and dunked on his team. So I’m looking at him, and he’s looking at me. And he was like … ‘I can do it again, you know?’ And I was like, ‘Alright, well, I only get one shot at it and I made it!’ But it was fun. Those years where we overlapped, I always liked him and felt he had a lot of respect and admiration. He was going to carry the torch, and he certainly desired to do it. He did a hell of a job at it."
Dr. J was a big inspiration for everybody, and Jordan saw him as more than a basketball player. In 1984, during his rookie season, No. 23 revealed he wanted to come close to Erving but in a different aspect of life.
Via The New York Times:
Jordan's gentler side emerges when he is asked if he sees himself in Erving's mold as a man of grace and poise. ''Sometimes I wonder,'' he said softly. ''I'd love to be what he is. Those are the same goals I have - I never want to forget where I came from - and I think I do have the same personality in that sense.''
Julius Erving is one of the greatest players ever to do it. He inspired a lot of superstars, including the greatest of all time. Fortunately, he had the chance to go at it against Jordan, seeing firsthand how special that player was and how great he'd be in the future.