What's Up, Doc?
For whatever else Julius Erving wanted to accomplish with his sponsorship of last Friday night's one-on-one basketball show in Atlantic City, he did not want to look like the reincarnation of World B. Free. Nevertheless....
Hey, Doc, nine of 44 from the field?
Well, that's what happens when you're forced to shoot jump shots over a 7'2" monument and you were never a jump-shooter even in your prime. And that's what happened at the first—and perhaps last—"Clash of the Legends" as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar swamped Erving 41-23. Viewership figures for the pay-per-view spectacle were not available as of Sunday night, but there are early indications that America was not exactly agog over the concept. Nor were many in attendance. The appearance of Magic Johnson at a courtside seat did more to excite the crowd, announced at 4,200, than anything Kareem or Doc pulled off on the court.
To answer the most obvious question: Yes, it appears that the 44-year-old Abdul-Jabbar could still be a serviceable backup center in the NBA. His strength enabled him to penetrate almost at will against Erving, and his skills helped him score on short hooks and finger rolls with either hand—he made 16 of his 31 shots. But after the competition Abdul-Jabbar reiterated that he had abandoned thoughts of an NBA comeback and would not be playing in any future one-on-one contests, either.
Ditto for Erving. "There will be no rematch," he said.
That is good to hear. Most of the pregame curiosity centered on whether or not the 42-year-old Erving could display his past magic, a swooping baseline drive, perhaps, or an acrobatic jam. But only once could Doc find enough space to dunk—the rest of the time he spent throwing up errant jump shots, including half a dozen or so air balls. Kareem got to the basket consistently, but he accomplished it with bull-like charges rather than with grace and finesse. One had to admire the man, but it did not make for great theater.
The event was sponsored by Erving's company, The DJ Group Inc., in association with the Trump Taj Mahal and Showtime Entertainment Television. Part of the proceeds will be donated to the Magic Johnson Foundation, but—make no mistake—Erving created the concept as a money-making venture. In fact, there was no three-second violation rule, but the "lane" was sold to Coca-Cola. And the prematch press releases included this breathless news: KAREEM ABDUL-JABBAR CHOOSES DURASPUN SOCKS. Hey, maybe that was the difference.
Mail It In
Charles Barkley of the 76ers and Karl Malone of the Jazz have all but redefined the forward position in the NBA. Their strength and bulk make them unstoppable in a half-court offense, yet they run the floor like sprinters. Barkley starts at small forward and Malone at power forward, but it really doesn't matter—they're just forwards, possibly the best two in the game. It will be a treat to see them on the court together in Barcelona in the Summer Olympics because both have a way of swallowing up the court. Which one will demand the ball on the low post? Which one will get out quicker on the break? Now, there's a dilemma for an Olympic point guard—the Mailman's in the right lane wanting the ball, and Barkley is on the left calling for it. Whom do you give it to? And where do you hide when the other comes looking for you?