By Tiffani Golding
Basketball hall of famer, Julius “Dr. J” Erving, was honored by the Long Island Nets when they retired his No. 32 jersey during their season game opener at the Nassau Coliseum on Saturday.
A Long Island native, Erving was born in East Meadow and played basketball at Roosevelt High School, then professionally in the ABA and NBA for sixteen years. After thirty years of retirement from the Philadelphia 76ers, he is being honored in his hometown, where he played for the New York Nets
“That’s definitely special with him being from Long Island, he’s from Roosevelt, the island always has a lot of love for him,” Kiyam Poulson, a fan of Erving, said.
In 1974 he joined the New York Nets and led them to championship titles in 1974 and 1976. During half-time a compilation video of Erving’s greatest moments played on the monitor and the crowd applauded as Erving’s No. 32 jersey was raised towards the ceiling and placed next to the New York Nets ABA championship titles.
“He can go anywhere in the world and be appreciated especially in New York, you know? He’s a legend,” Poulson said.
Another honorary during Saturday’s game opener was Don Ryan, the Mayor of Hempstead and Erving’s first mentor and youth-league coach. Ryan received the lifetime achievement award for his community contributions as a teacher, coach and local civil leader.
“The opportunity to honor two of Long Island basketball’s biggest legends is very important to the lineage of the Long Island Nets,” Alton Byrd, VP of Business Operations for the Long Island Nets, said. “Both Julius and Don represent all that is good about basketball on the Island. Both men are etched in history of the Coliseum, the Nets organization, and within the basketball community as men of high integrity who have provided many young men and women with guidance, mentorship, and key life experiences on which to build a foundation.”
The basketball hall of famer is a three-time NBA most valuable player and the sixth highest scorer in NBA history with an average of 30,026 points during his entire career from 1971 to 1987. From his physical appearance to his style of play, Erving’s fans seem to agree that he had an undeniable impact on basketball culture.
“Instead of I want to be like Mike back then everyone wanted to be like Dr. J with the big afro, slam dunks and the finger rolls,” Tim Parker, JV Basketball Coach at St. John the Baptist Diocesan High School, said. “ He was a big innovator, I sometimes don’t think a lot of the people in the NBA realizes how much of an innovator he was.”
On and off the court Erving showed sportsmanship and devotion to his fans, “I remember coming out of a game it was cold and about 40 degrees, he had about 50 of us kids follow him to his car, sat inside the car, turned the engine on, rolled the window and signed for every one of us before he left,” Neal Ferber, long-time fan of Erving, said.
“He changed the way the game was played,” Poulson said. Even after his retirement he stayed close to the game and worked as a sports analyst and was an executive for the Orlando Magic.