Dr. J was the original high-flier in basketball history, which was why Michael Jordan idolized him growing up. The two had a great relationship later on.
Basketball during the 1950s and 1960s had evolved from peach hoops and the no-shot clock era to a much more stable format of deliberate play in the early 1970s. However, there was an element of streetball flair conspicuously missing from the major leagues.
This was something that changed when Dr. J decided to show off his absurd vertical leap during games. Julius Erving would dunk on defenses with reckless abandon. In addition to have otherworldly bounce, Erving also had the body control of a ballerina.
His ‘hangtime’ was something that would inspire many players from later generations. Perhaps the most notable among them would be His Airness.
Julius Erving talks about his relationship with Michael Jordan off the court
Julius Erving appeared on the Knuckleheads Podcast a few months back with Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles. In this longform podcast, Dr. J went into detail about his mentality as a hooper and how his life went.
One of the stories that came up during the conversation was regarding Michael Jordan and Dr. J being his idol. As a kid in rural North Carolina, MJ wasn’t able to watch the NBA regularly because it was on cable. But when he saw Julius Erving flying from the free throw line, he know he had to do it too.
Dr. J showered great praise on His Airness:
“Those years when we overlapped, we kinda caught him before he hit his stride. In those first 3 years, you know he was trying to find his stride.”
“He was scoring a lot of points, but he was trying to find himself, find the right mix of teammates and whatever. There were a lot of things going on during that time with him.”
“We did some things in the offseason together, we’d play golf in the offseason. And just non-recreational type of stuff. We had some endorsement opportunities, I think I moved out of Atlanta once and we did…probably the Coca-Cola situation, before he had signed his deal with Gatorade.”
“I always liked him, and I always felt that he had a lot of respect, a lot of admiration and we knew he was going to carry the torch. And he certainly desired to do it…did a hell of a job!”