Friday, June 14, 2013

Film Recommendation of the Week...

The Doctor
Release Date-June 10, 2013 on NBA.TV
Running Time-1 hour, 10 minutes.

There have been many great players in the NBA, but not one has exuded the quiet dignity, class and unbridled inner city playground game than Julius "Doctor J" Erving. Erving was America's biggest nightmare come to life-a stylish brother with the crazy-ass 'fro who dressed better than any uptown pimp this side of Bad, Bad Leroy Brown. As articulate as an English Lit professor. Possessor of the brashest, loudest game in combination with the softest-spoken demeanor of any superstar athlete before or since. An OG badass like no other who had the coolest nickname ever. He propelled the game into the 21st. Century with his insane vertical leap. Most NBA leapers can either jump up or across-Doctor J was the first cat to combine both seemingly disparate disciplines with the style and grace of a Baryshnikov.

He was the brother you wanted to be like yet would never want to meet because you know after getting his autograph, he was leaving with YOUR girl on his arm. He was the athlete you wish your kid would grow up to be. Freakishly gifted-tall, with long arms and legs, and hands big enough to grab a tabletop end-to-end, he managed to exude a physical grace rare for men of any height, and he did so with almost no airplay during the best years of his professional career. He even made that ridiculous red, white and blue ABA basketball cool.

After bypassing his senior year of college at UMass, Erving became the face of the renegade upstart ABA basketball league, which challenged the hegemony of the NBA by doing shit like drafting players right out of high school (Moses Malone, for example) and letting their teams run the type of offenses that catered to creative geniuses like George "The Iceman" Gervin, amongst others. Before a forced merger with the NBA due to financial problems stemming from no league-wide television contract, the ABA came to signify what was cool about the 1970's. Unfortunately, a large percentage of Erving's greatest moves have passed into posterity without benefit of game footage. He left his best behind him after the NBA merger, but he was still Doctor J until the day he retired.

Take two of these and call me in the morning-

His gift lay his ability to reign in the wild streetball game of Rucker Park with the discipline necessary to play at the game's highest level. Unlike many of his lesser-talented playground brethren who still stalk the blacktops of the 'hood talking shit about their playground exploits, the good doctor made housecalls everywhere he went and kept it moving. He didn't fall into the trap of constantly talking that "back in the day" bullshit that has grown so tiresome it makes me want to vomit (yes, I'm talking about YOU, Pee Wee Kirkland).

For all the playground legends whose reputations exist only in the minds of those who can't stop talking about themselves, the bottom line is always the same-"I could 'ah been a contendah". Julius Erving WAS the real deal-the game, the class, the flash, and more importantly, absolutely no excuses. The reason why there was only one Dr. J wasn't so much because of his talents but because of his personality. He was able to pull it together and keep it together throughout his whole college and professional career-no scandals, no public, protracted arguments with coaching staff or fellow teammates (a difficult feat to pull off considering he once played with World B. Free, George McGinnis AND Darryl Dawkins on the same team) and no bullshit.

The young Dr. J serving his internship at UMass-

Slicin' 'em up in the 'hood-

Standing room only at Rucker Park-

Regardless of whatever went on in his private life, he will always be "The Doctor" to his legion of fans. I'm glad the documentary didn't go into any of that peripheral stuff-the financial issues, the children out of wedlock, etc. We don't need to rehash any of that crap. It's not the reason any of us go to to check out his highlights. We do so because, despite the fucked up world we live in, we can still revel in the achievements of someone like "The Doctor", a singular talent who exemplifies the best his sport has ever seen.

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