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The Iceman speaketh

Gervin explains role in Spurs, San Antonio's history

Posted: Tuesday April 12, 2005 5:26PM; Updated: Friday April 15, 2005 12:25AM
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While scouting for the ABA one night in 1972, Johnny "Red" Kerr watched a skinny 19-year old kid score 50 points in an otherwise ho-hum game played in the relatively obscure Eastern Basketball Association. The kid was making $500 month. After that game, Kerr signed the kid, George Gervin, to a $40,000 contract with the ABA's Virginia Squires. Over the course of a 14-year pro career, Gervin proved that no matter what league he played in, scoring was never a problem. The longtime San Antonio Spur holds four NBA scoring titles, played in 12 straight All-Star Games (nine in the NBA) and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in '96.

George Gervin
A career 51 percent shooter, longtime Spur George Gervin averaged 26.2 points a game in 10 NBA seasons.
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images

SI.com: Your home answering machine message tells callers they've reached the home of George 'The Iceman' Gervin. But who was "Iceberg Slim,"?

GG: (laughs) Iceberg Slim was a pimp out of Detroit.

SI.com: Who turned you on to him?

GG: Nobody turned me on to him. I'm from the Detroit where he's legendary. That ain't where I got my nickname from, though.

SI.com: No?

GG: No. Ain't nothing pimpish about me.

SI.com: Well, then how did you come by the nickname "Iceman?"

GG: Fatty Taylor is the guy who named me Iceman. When I was in the ABA at age 19, I was probably 165 pounds, so I didn't sweat that much. We'd play and everybody's uniform would be soaking wet but mine. After he saw that enough times, he said, "Man, you just like ice."

SI.com: Only Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan have won more league scoring titles than you. No matter where you played, you never had trouble scoring. What was your secret?

GG: I think shot selection was the key for me. I didn't really like taking long jump shots; I liked taking that in-between jumper -- you know, around 10-12 feet out, around the free-throw line. Being selective is the reason a guy like me could shoot better than 50 percent in his career.

SI.com: Today it seems like guys limit themselves primarily to two shots: the 3-pointer and the dunk.

GG: Yeah, I know man. The fundamentals are really fading away. More of these guys would be scoring champs if they could put the ball in the hole from the in-between area like Richard Hamilton. But he's a rarity.

SI.com: After winning your fourth scoring title in '82, Jerry West said you were "the one player I would pay to see," That same year, then-coach Dick Motta said, "You don't stop George Gervin; you just hope that his arm gets tired after 40 shots. I believe the guy can score when he wants to. I wonder if he gets bored out there."

GG: Great compliments from two great basketball minds. Jerry West had that ability to put the ball in the basket and win. And coach Motta won a championship with Washington Bullets the year ('79) we played them in the semifinals. He had a chance to really see what I could do in a seven-game series. But I wasn't big on taking 40 shots. (laughs) There were other guys out on the floor, too.