Having played in an era without social media and extensive TV coverage, his style of play was so different that it left a mark for future generations. The one and only Julius Erving aka Doctor J.
This post is to honor a true Legend, one of the Greats of the game not focusing on his athletic skills but on his overall presence as a human being.
I read his autobiography, in which he allows us to get to see the Julius behind the Dr.J. A life full of lights, cameras and shiny lifestyle with the human element behind all of this. A man’s rise to success, his falls, his shortcomings with the constant struggle not to lose his soul in what is happening around him and the rhythm of the professional athlete’s life.
We see a full life with the duality between family and career always at the center focus. It shows you that no matter the bright lights shining on someone, there is always a personal fight in the shadow. A fight that comes from the search for balance between all the aspects.
No matter how high you get, there is always something pulling you. It doesn’t mean you have to erase it, instead live with it in a way you don’t get pulled down.
Dr.J’s struggle was to rise and achieve, while having to deal with the loss of his loved ones.
His struggle is through his art to constantly rise as a professional and a human being. He admits he didn’t always succeed, but he never backed down from a challenge. This is true inspiration and a guiding light for how to live a successful life.
Growing up in USA in the 50’s-60’s was a constant challenge for an African-American kid.
By his example, we see how the proper positive and peaceful mindset can shape the reality around us and launch a gifted kid from the projects, to immortality.
In his words ” I’ve been working since I was twelve[…] I don’t mind work, Mom taught me I have to earn my own way. What I mind is the sameness of the tasks and days, the repetition, the way time spent working unfurls as slowly as catsup pouring from a cold, stuck bottle. I have been taught to be humble, but I think, I realize, I am above this. I am. Better than this.[…] I am, an artist, like James Brown, like Otis, like Jimi even. Only my song, my art, is basketball.”
Powerful words, walking the talk. Clear vision and everythings fits into place, comes normally.
And then the new way of life kicks in with all the extra challenges.
“When I am out there, I am in some sense no different from a mason laying stone. That’s what you are watching.
Would I play basketball if I weren’t getting paid?
Would I play several hundred games a season, practice every day, and undergo surgeries and therapies and rehabs?No.
I think I am different from many athletes, in that as much as I enjoy the game, it does not define me.”
His greatest pride is his family, not the sport.
He puts in plain sight the greatest challenges professional athletes face during their playing days and after retirement:
” If men in their late twenties and early thirties become aware of the passage of time-of what has been accomplished and, perhaps more important, what hasn’t-a professional athlete becomes hyper- aware. We are confronted with a shorter productive peak, just a decade or so into our primes, if we are lucky.
I sometimes wonder if so many of the players’ diversions are just that. desparate attempts to push away the thoughts of the inevitable, the end of the career, the end of this life. Players drink, smoke, seek out inappropriate sex partners-we are outsized in all areas, including our appetites.“
All of these are the less known aspects of the athlete’s life. Nevertheless, they are there at all times and eras.
Dr.J’s life is an example to be followed. Is he perfect? No. Is he trying the best he can to rise as a human? You bet. Did sports help him shape his life and focus mentally on what is important?Yes.
“I know that the basketball court is the one place where chaos always gives way to order. I try to believe there is an order logic to life, though by now I suspect there is no underlying logic, or none that I can see. There is only the order and structure that I can create by keeping my room tidy and my clothes neatly folded, and also by finding a basketball court and imposing my will upon that.”
Now, that’s what we call a true Athlete Legacy…
The excerpts are from “Dr.J The Autobiography” written by Julius Erving&Karl Taro Greenfeld
By Harper Collins publishing.