AUBURN HILLS, Mich., June 15
-- Prior to the start of Game 5 of The Finals, NBA.com caught up with NBA legend Julius "Dr. J" Erving, who shared his thoughts on one of his favorite dunks from his All-Star career, winning the championship in 1983 and the Pistons-Lakers matchup.
Julius Erving dunks during the 1984 All-Star Slam Dunk contest.|
Andrew D. Bernstein
Q: What’s you favorite memory from the 1983 Finals as you won the NBA title?
Dr. J: “My favorite memory was not ingesting any champagne, just kind of staying sober while everybody else was partying and celebrating. And this was just so hard to get because it was a seven-year chase and three times we were so close and didn’t get it, so when we did get it, just having this whole sobriety about myself and taking it all in. Every little thing that was going on that evening in that lockerroom I took in, and most of it was just observing people lose their minds.”
Q: You matched up the Lakers so many times, do you find yourself rooting against them when you see those yellow jerseys out there?
Dr. J: “I don’t root against them, but I do root for the Eastern Conference, so in effect that is indirectly rooting against them. But whoever the Western representative is, I’m generally for the Eastern Conference because that’s where I played both my careers – my ABA career and my NBA career, by playing in Virginia, New York and Philadelphia. And so I always want the Eastern Conference team to win.”
Q: People talk a lot about the differences between Eastern and Western Conference styles of play. Do you think there are differences?
Dr. J: “Yeah, I think there are differences, and in the last few years the West has been totally dominant in the championship series. I think this year some of the Pistons’ success has a lot to do with going through a couple of very tough series with Indiana and New Jersey, playing toe-to-toe, chest-to-chest basketball offensively and defensively. And I think it’s disarmed the Lakers, it’s given them a little more than they presently are able to handle.”
Erving was an 11-time NBA All-Star.|
M. David Leeds/NBAE/Getty Images
Do you have a favorite dunk from your career?
Dr. J: “I have a dunk that I did in the Capitol Centre when Elvin Hayes and Wes Unseld were playing for them that I think about from time to time. I feel kind of fortunate that I was able to get out of there with my life in my hands after executing it… It was a take-off from the wing, drive hard to the basket, get in the lane, and understand the circumstances. Unseld came over to help, as did Elvin Hayes. Elvin Hayes jumped, tried to block the shot, and I was able to pretty much go up over both of them and complete the play and then run back down court – because there wasn’t a whole lot of fanfare when you made dunks like that, but you could kind of sense that the people in the building had seen something pretty special and they talked about it for years afterwards. They’re probably still talking about it.”
Q: If you were playing today, who would you most enjoy the challenge of matching up against?
Dr. J: “The guys who are the prime-time scorers – Tracy McGrady, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant. Those guys, they’re tall, thin, they like to shoot the ball, they like to score. I’d stay away from the Karl Malones and the Shaquille O’Neals, they seem like they’re guys who could hurt you and since I only played at 212, it would be fun playing against those other three.”
Q: What do you think of this Pistons-Lakers series? Are you surprised at how well the Pistons have done?
Dr. J: “I think at the beginning of the series most people were picking the Lakers because of how they dismantled San Antonio. San Antonio, most people thought was the best team in the league, and they were the defending champs. So, usually whoever takes out the defending champs, you think they’ve got a good, good shot of winning. But Detroit’s earned their stripes. Their style of play and the audience watching, I think, it’s become an endearing situation where the more you see them play, the more you like what they do. And when they were playing against New Jersey, a lot of people were calling it ugly basketball. Indiana, ugly basketball. Teams can’t score, can’t shoot and so on and so forth. But now, there’s a certain beauty to behold because they are taking apart a team that had taken out the defending champions and most people just didn’t realize had a number of flaws. So I kind of like what I’m seeing. I think it’s good for basketball, it’s probably healthy for basketball.”