Posted: Tuesday April 12, 2005 5:26PM; Updated: Friday April 15, 2005 12:25AM
George Gervin is still scoring points for the Spurs long after retirement as a community relations representative for the team.
Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images
SI.com: What opponent did you hate to see defending you?
GG:Dennis Johnson was a guy who played me well. Bobby Jones was another guy. Also, Jamaal Wilkes and Michael Cooper [were tough]. When I faced those guys, I probably got a hard 30. (laughing)
SI.com: What player made you think, "Man, this is going to be another 40 point night"?
GG: Wow, there are a lot of those, man. I knew I had to stay focused when I played the four guys I named before, but I felt that I could get my numbers relatively easily on most of the rest of 'em.
SI.com: Your first season in the ABA ('72-73) you joined the Virginia Squires, who had young, second-year forward named Julius Erving. In your last season in the NBA ('85-86) you joined the Chicago Bulls, who had second-year player by the name of Jordan. Like The Celestine Prophecy, I believe there are no coincidences. How much do those two players owe to you for their eventual success?
GG: Well, I don't think they owe me anything. But I owe the Doc quite a bit because when I was a rookie he took me under his wing. After practice I would be headed to the locker room and Julius would pull me back say, "Hey rook, not yet; we've got some one-on-one to do." That time as a rookie was the most I ever practiced. Julius helped me gain the confidence to be the player I would become.
With Michael, I was on my way out. But I got a chance to see the potential of the greatness he showed after my career. I remember playing with the Bulls in Dallas, and he was sitting on the bench hurt. I scored 35 points in the first half and I ended up with 40-some points. Jordan started laughing at me and said, "Ha! You got a little tired on me." I said "Mike, I'm old now. buddy."
SI.com: Those one-one-one games after practice with Erving -- who got the best of those?
GG: Mmmmm. I always say Julius Erving but when I'm around him he always says "Awe Blade, (he always called me 'Blade') you got your wins in." He won most of them because I remember having to get over that intimidation factor -- knowing who he was; the Doctor, Mr. ABA. So he probably got the best of me.
SI.com: Plus he had that afro which gave him another ten pounds on you.
GG: He had a real afro! I just needed a hot comb to blow mine out. (laughing)
SI.com: In '75 you joined the San Antonio Spurs and, despite the fact that your 6-foot-7 frame in those days was more typical of a forward, they were smart enough to make you a shooting guard with James Silas at the point. How important was that switch for your career?
GG: I think it was everything. Bob Bass made that switch. He thought that I was a little small in weight and a lot of the forwards would try to beat me down. He felt because I could put the ball on the floor and distribute the basketball that it would probably be better for me to play the two-guard. A lot of the smaller two guards would ask me, "Why don't you go back to playing forward?" I'd say, "Why? It's easy playing against you little guys."
SI.com: Because of his injuries before the ABA-NBA merger, a lot of people never got to see Silas at his best. How good was he?
GG: Silas is definitely one of the lost guys who doesn't get the credit he deserves, especially for playing the one spot. I would do all the damage during three quarters and in the fourth quarter we'd get him the ball because we knew he was "Captain Late." The things that he could do to those little point guards was amazing. And he never really missed a free throw.
SI.com: In '77-78, in only their second year in the NBA, the Spurs won the Central Division under coach Doug Moe with a 52-30 record, third best in the league. How were you successful so quickly?
GG: Doug's way of coaching was to try to try and get up as many shots as we could. His philosophy was that if we shot the ball 20-25 times more than our opponents, we'd win most of the time. So we came in running and gunning. He was definitely one of my favorite coaches.