Vibrant and creative innovator of the air.
He was an All-Star in all 16 professional seasons, five in the ABA and 11 in the NBA. Was also all-league in 12 of those campaigns, five in the NBA and seven in the ABA. He was the ABA MVP three times (1974, '75, '76), an NBA All-Star MVP twice (1977, '83) and led the ABA in scoring in four of his five seasons in that league.
Erving began his professional career in the ABA with the Virginia Squires in 1971. Erving thoroughly dominated the league over five seasons. After two seasons in Virginia, he was dealt to the New York Nets before the 1973-74 season, but that didn't slow his roll. He led the Nets to the 1974 and '76 championships and, overall, averaged 28.7 points, 12.1 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 2.4 steals and 2.0 blocks per game in 407 career ABA contests.
The Milwaukee Bucks picked Erving in the first round of the 1972 Draft, but he never played a game for them. Prior to the 1972-73 season, Erving attempted to jump to the Atlanta Hawks but was legally barred from doing so due to court injunctions initiated by the Squires. (He did, however, suit up for a Hawks exhibition game on Sept. 28, 1972 and scored 28 points.) A court order forced Erving back to the Squires four games in the the 1972-73 season.
The Nets were locked in a contract dispute with Erving on the eve of the 1976-77 season and when the impasse could not be resolved, New York sold Erving for $3 million dollars to the 76ers. (For point of reference, $3 million in 1976 is roughly equivalent to $14 million in 2021.) Philadelphia became instant championship contenders, reaching The Finals in four of the next seven seasons while helping the NBA emerge from its 1970s doldrums.
In his lone NBA MVP season, Erving averaged 24.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 4.4 apg, 2.1 spg and 1.8 bpg in 1980-81 to edge out Boston Celtics star and Eastern Conference rival Larry Bird for the honor. While Erving got that accolade, Bird had the last laugh as he and the Celtics rallied from a 3-1 hole in the East finals to oust Erving's 76ers.
In 1980, Erving was one of two active players named to the NBA 35th Anniversary All-Time Team (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the other). He was also named one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players of All-Time during the 1996-97 season.
After losing his first three Finals appearances, Erving teamed with league MVP Moses Malone in 1982-83 to finally claim his first and only NBA title. The Sixers narrowly missed Malone's famous "fo-fo-fo" prediction -- three straight sweeps -- with just one loss in the postseason, a feat matched only by the 2000-01 Lakers (15-1) and the 2016-17 Warriors (16-1).