We'll never know how close Julius Erving came to becoming the 76ers' owner during the late summer and early fall of 2006, but the legendary Doctor J made it clear yesterday it is not a venture he would pursue again.
Erving and Clint Richardson, members of the 1982-83 champion Sixers, were in town as part of a celebration of the 25th anniversary of that title.
Erving had put together a prospective ownership group, some members of which visited the Wachovia Center to examine the facilities and the overall situation.
But whatever opportunity that had been presented quickly evaporated.
"Once I heard the franchise was being marketed, I got a call," Erving said. "I made a couple of calls, actually got some guys together and said, 'Let's make a run at it.' This wasn't something we pursued through initiation. I was doing other things at the time.
"They just took it off the market. It was kind of disappointing to see it disappear. I wouldn't do it again."
Erving and Richardson joined coach Maurice Cheeks, the point guard on the title team, to address the current players and staff after yesterday morning's shootaround at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, then participated in a ceremony at halftime of last night's game against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Erving's message to the current players was, in part:
"When you're an NBA player, it's a little bit of a fantasy. Your existence is like 'Fantasy Island.' Take ownership of your life, how you want to be perceived, how you want the story to end. This is a finite existence; you have a lot to say about that. I wouldn't leave it to chance."
Reflecting on the championship season after reaching the Finals three previous times, he said:
"It was a very magical year. I guess it was time to clean the skeletons out of the closet. I never looked at them as skeletons; I looked at them as goals that we set, that we didn't achieve. I think not setting a goal would be more of a skeleton. [The '82-83 season] erased a lot of bad memories that maybe were associated with not measuring up.
"As I told the team, basketball is a game. It's part of your life, it's not your whole life. You need to check out every now and then, then check back in, and then it becomes a more fulfilling experience, because I think you have some other things to compare it to.
"When you compare it to so much going on in the world, it is 'Fantasy Island.' " *