In an attempt to run something up the flagpole, local publicity merchants had the felicitous idea of nicknaming Gervin's 18-month-old son, George Jr., Ice Cube and—are you ready for this?—a still-to-be-born child Icicle. Though this gimmick produced some national ink, at home it didn't wash. "Hay back and keep hearing 'Cube, Cube,' but my boy is just G Junior to me," says Gervin, "whereas although if the new baby is a girl, I may have to call her Snowflake."
Out of a broken home in the ghetto of Detroit's east side, Gervin made "all E's" in high school and then went off to spend a few hours at Long Beach State under Jerry Tarkanian, before transferring to Eastern Michigan, where he led the Hurons to the NCAA college tournament in Evansville and concluded his college career with a one-punch knockout of Jay Piccola of Roanoke College. "Whereas the cat bowled me, so I got up fast and he went down faster. Boom. TKO," explains Ice, laughing. But back then the incident resulted in EMU Coach Jim Dutcher announcing that he would quit the profession (he is now at Minnesota) and Gervin dropping out of school.
The Iceman traces his path to the NBA this way: "I played with the semipro Pontiac Capperals in Pontiac, Mich., for seven months until I was discovered by the great Johnny, Red, Kerr—Yeah—who signed me for the Virginia Squires where my pro career was begun and where I played with the great Julius, Doctor J, Erving, for a year and then was traded to San Antonio which I didn't know what it was. I remember the Capperals like it was yesterday because I was with the old vets, copin'. Yeah. And I was thrivin' on that. Uh-huh."
Being a contemporary and onetime teammate of Dr. J as well as having similar abilities (Gervin lacks only Erving's strength), the Iceman has suffered the inevitable comparisons. There was the famous ABA dunk contest that Erving won while Gervin was missing three of five slammers, including his unique "afterthought dunk" wherein Ice glides by the rim one way while reaching back and—boinnnnng—tomahawking the ball the other. "The afterthought be tough, yeah," says Ice. Then there was the bitter 1976 ABA playoff series won by Erving's New York Nets over Gervin's Spurs, 4 games to 3.
But in the 1� seasons since Moe switched Gervin to the backcourt (to recover the scoring lost when Guard James Silas injured his knee), the Iceman has proved, says teammate Paultz, that "he can do some things not even the Doc can do."
Last season, while adjusting to his new position, Gervin shot 54% (fourth best in the NBA) and scored 23 points a game (ninth best), but he took too many bad shots and made too many offensive fouls while being frustrated by the terrible physical pounding he experienced every night. In the playoffs the Celtics' Charlie Scott chopped up Gervin unmercifully. This year the Iceman has cut down on his fouls and his preposterous prayer shots. He is scoring 27 a game (second only to Pete Maravich), shooting 55%, seeing the floor better, passing more and even playing occasional one-man zone defense out high.
Now in the crunch Moe holds up four fingers. The Spurs have so consistently mastered their 1-4 alignment—an offense developed for Silas but now the property of Gervin, who does a passable impression of Roger Staubach fading back into the shotgun—-that cynics say the coach could cut off his thumb and still direct the entire San Antonio playbook.
As his moniker implies, Gervin does all this marvelous stuff while appearing to be in a deep coma—face expressionless, eyelids drooping, the Iceman to the letter. "Make him work, he's not even working," Atlanta Hawk Coach Hubie Brown yelled at the referees the other night when Gervin received the benefit of a disputable foul call. But that is precisely Gervin's gig. It is difficult to distinguish between when he is pushing hard and when he is sleeping on the job, so smooth and graceful are his movements, so complete his insouciance. Gervin's explosive first step to the bucket and gliding style also nicely cover up another secret: Ice may be one of the slowest runners in the NBA.
"Whereas I ain't too fast, here to there," Gervin says, "my gig is zigzaggin'."
"To stop Ice you beat Ice up," says Spur Guard George Karl. "That worked in the past. But now he knows he's going to get slapped and bumped every time he goes for the shot, so it doesn't bother him. Norm Van Lier roughed him up so bad the last couple of times that Ice went for twin 37s against the Bulls. It's a joke. The man is just toying with the whole NBA."