Fellow superstar Magic Johnson once said, “When greatness meets class, that’s what God created in Dr. J.”
It’s hard to find anyone who has ever said a bad word about him. He’s universally admired.
Erving has just written his autobiography, simply titled “Dr. J,” and it is “classy” in the sense that he is open and honest about everything. Despite all his success he did not have an easy life. He suffered through many personal tragedies and boneheaded decisions but persevered through them all. You sense a quiet dignity that gives you a greater admiration for the man despite all his shortcomings.
What’s impressive about Dr. J (who got the nickname by the way he “operated” on the basketball court) is that he grew up with the right value system. Despite being a product of a broken home and growing up in the projects on Long Island his mom instilled the importance of education, hard work, and staying out of trouble. He may have been blessed with exceptional athletic talent but he didn’t waste it.
Erving not only took school seriously but worked several jobs growing up to help his family and provide himself with spending money. The only drawback was a bakery job that ended up providing a lucrative income for his dentist! But by keeping his priorities in order and having basketball coaches that doubled as father figures Erving attained an athletic scholarship and positioned himself to become the first member of his family to graduate from college.
One lesson he learned early in life was on a trip to South Carolina to visit relatives. Despite his poverty he grew up in a neighborhood that was multi-racial. Erving had friends who were both black and white. The exposure to the Jim Crow South exposed him to a whole new world of intolerance.