No treatise on
hang time can be complete without mention of what most people consider the
ultimate hang move, a.k.a. Erving's L.A. move. The situation: Game 4 of the
1980 NBA championship series. Fourth quarter. Philly, at home, leads the Lakers
It was this
memorable fusing of power and grace, of Carl Lewis and Mikhail Baryshnikov, of
Goodnight, Irene and "what it is," that prompted Cunningham to later
say, "I don't know that there's ever been, or ever will be, anyone with the
soaring ability of Julius." It was this move that crystallized why Erving
has the most spectacular plumage in the game's history; that inspired Grover
Washington Jr. to compose Let It Flow ("For Dr. J"); that defied logic,
gravity and whiplash.
The play began
with Bobby Jones holding the ball on the left side. Erving, who had been near
the basket, low down in the right lane, pushed off slightly on Mark Landsberger
and flashed out high to the right side of the foul line. When Jones tossed the
ball crosscourt, Erving got it about 18 feet from the hoop. Landsberger came
out to check him, overplaying him toward the sideline. With his route to the
paint blocked, Erving took a big first step and dribbled to his right,
accelerating past Landsberger easily. Having drifted wide, Erving now turned
sharply and moved along the baseline toward the hoop; his left foot was still
outside the foul lane as he picked up his dribble and rose into the air from
about 12 feet out. Although Landsberger was beaten, he leaped at Erving,
extending his right arm like a clothesline to block Erving's clear line at the
basket. As Landsberger was cutting off the outside path, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
sloughed into the paint and, by raising himself to his tiptoes, denied Erving
an inside path.
rejected Plan A, throwing up a scoop shot immediately after getting around
Landsberger, and Plan B, taking "a flyer" and arching the ball high
enough to get it over Kareem, Erving seemingly had no place to go but off the
court. So that's where he went, off the court, behind the basket. Everyone else
would have come down in a photographer's lap. But Erving went to Plan C: After
dipsy-doodling the ball, ducking his head so he wouldn't slap it against the
back of the backboard and tucking his legs for some extra hang time, he
reentered the court on the other side of the basket, and just before touching
down inside the left side of the foul lane, he extended his shooting arm like a
hydraulic crane and underhanded a reverse topspin floater off the glass,
kissing it off the front rim and in. A U-turn with a diameter the breadth of
As in, ohmygod,
he condored that sucker.
CBS showed the
replay three times. The NBA put it in its highlight film. By now you've
probably seen it 30 zillion times. Each time, it's just as amazing.
says that when he finished it, "I thought I'd done it 1,000 times
before," Cunningham still can't believe it, and he was watching it, live,
from the bench. "You had to figure that the official missed it, that Doc
came down and went up again," Cunningham says, shaking his head in wonder.
"Because, how could anybody do that?"
incredible thing of all is how long Erving stayed in the air.
A stopwatch timed
it at .7 of a second, almost no time at all.
And you could
have sworn he was up there forever.