The hair and goatee are gray, but Julius Erving still commands a regal presence, leaving the most accomplished individuals in awe.
Erving and Clint Richardson were honored last night at halftime of the game between the 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers at the Wachovia Center. It was the first of four tributes marking the 25th anniversary of the 1982-83 championship season.
The 57-year-old Erving received a standing ovation from the appreciative crowd. He also drew several
when video highlights of his career showed his levitation act on the court.
A quarter-century later, the thrill of winning the championship hasn't faded for Erving.
"It was a magical year," Erving said after he and Richardson addressed the current Sixers yesterday morning during the shoot-around at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Erving, who averaged 18.4 points in the playoffs as the Sixers went 12-1, said one of his greatest memories was the victory parade after the Sixers swept the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
"The parade was the coup de grace," he said. "That was very special. Our families were able to participate in it with us along with the extended family, which was the city of Philadelphia."
Erving talked about the unity that championship team created.
"There was political turmoil going on in the city, and everybody just kind of set everything aside," he said. "It was the lion and the lamb laying down and sleeping beside each other, and taking that moment to celebrate something we had sought for a long time and hadn't happened since '67."
A pin drop could be heard when Erving talked to the Sixers players. His message: Enjoy the moment, but also be well-rounded and remember that basketball was part of their life, but not all of their life.
"The players were in awe, and some had never been that close to him," said Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks, who was Erving's longtime teammate. "We had to bring in the huddle early because they were all watching him and not paying attention to what we were doing."
For once, Cheeks couldn't blame his players.
Even a superstar such as nine-time all-star Kobe Bryant holds Erving in the highest regard.
"He's a pioneer who transcended the game," Bryant said.
Bryant often has been compared to Erving.
"To be compared to somebody like that is a tremendous honor for myself," Bryant said.
Before winning the title, the Sixers and Erving lost in the Finals three times, in 1977, 1980 and 1982.
"Philadelphia was hungry for it, and the players were hungry for it," Erving said. "It was our turn."