In my last Splash Magazine article, I presented to you “Julius Erving, NBA Legend Preview – “Dr. J” Writes His Own Prescription”. I was very excited to learn where this legend began, how he rose to the top of his basketball career, how he retired and how his personal life was at times like a roller coaster ride. This was revealed in “Dr. J, The Autobiography” which was written by Karl Taro Greenfeld and it is remarkable.
During the month of November, Mr. Erving was touring and promoting his book. Many adoring fans came to his book signing to purchase his book and greet him. He really appreciated those who came out to support his book. I was very fortunate to meet with him which is an experience I will remember the rest of my life.
Since the release of his book, he has been in high demand for more public appearances and interviews. When he came to Barnes and Nobles in Atlanta, Georgia on Saturday, November 9, 2013, I was thrilled to be part of this Legend’s book signing. Before I arrived at the book signing, I stopped by to give a final farewell to another NBA Legend and Hall of Famer, Mr. Walter Bellamy Jr. who passed away November 2, 2013 at age 74. His “Homegoing Celebration” was both emotional and inspiring. Mr. Bellamy’s basketball friends spoke so highly of him and his stellar basketball career. The most emotional moment was when his aunt, who appeared to be in her 90’s, came to the podium to speak. She spoke of the person he really was and not the basketball player. However, she was really proud of all of his accomplishment on and off the courts.
After hearing this talk I can understand more clearly why “Dr. J” being the great, respectable, role model, high-achiever, charismatic basketball player we witness on the court wants to share with the world who he is as a person and not just the basketball player.
When I first met “Dr. J”, he was very kind and that really meant so much to me. Even his management team, Barry Brookhard and others were very nice to me and very helpful. Fans were enthusiastic about the book signings, though some were trying to get their photos, and other memorabilia’s signed. Several friends of mine had requested “Dr. J’s” book so I purchased three books that day and we are so glad we did. It is a great read. It is very informative, fascinating and I didn't want to put it down.
Mr. Erving is the gentleman he appears to be. When he asked pleasantly where I wanted him to sign it, I simply responded “you can sign where you have been signing the others”. We were talking about all the radio promotion appearances his managers had scheduled to promote his book. In his voice, you could hear that he was very pleased with the way the signing tours were proceeding.
Mr. Erving lives in Atlanta with his beautiful wife, Dory of five years, and he is involved with many city activities. Two years ago, I saw him at the Soul Train Award Show at the Atlanta Fox Theatre. I noticed a high profile artist looking at him with amazement and I laughed to myself because the person is a celebrity herself. Even at age 63, “Dr. J” remains charismatic.
It is an inspiration that “Dr. J” lives in Atlanta among some of his former NBA Philadelphia 76ers Championship teammates.
I am a former United States Air Force basketball player and I understand the closeness teammate shares especially if you are fortunate to win championships together. I’m continually impressed knowing my former “championship” teammates are doing good and giving back to their communities.
Two of “Dr. J’s” former “championship” teammates are here in Atlanta and they continue to be successful too. Andrew Toney, a director for the Based Mentoring Program for the Public Schools who was inducted recently into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.
Also, Reggie Johnson, the founder of RJohnson Community Services Inc., who was inducted recently to the University of Tennessee All-Century Team. I’m a proud member of Mr. Johnson's organization because we are always helping young people to reach their potentials. He told me he is so proud of his former teammates because they still have reunions and do things together as a team and they have fun.
I am really moved by the story about Jeffrey Millman, equipment management for this Championship team who was dying of lung cancer. When he requested the chance to see this special 1983 Championship team, no matter where former players were, they flew to Philadelphia to be by his side. They honored him at the 76ers season opener on October 30, 2013. A great inspirational request was fulfilled while Mr. Millman was still living. A week later, on November 5, he passed away. Even though “Dr. J” was busy promoting his book, he flew to Philadelphia to give his last tribute to the 76ers friend who cared and nurtured these young 76ers players, helping them become Champions.
What I’m expressing now about the closeness his 1983 team shared and saying goodbye to their beloved equipment manager could be in the next Autobiography of “Dr. J”. In this life, it’s important to honor and give your appreciation to others while they are still living. Just last week my siblings and I honored our father for two of his accomplishments by celebrating 80 years of living and honoring the 50 years since he became one of the first African American policemen in our city in December 1963. You have to live life, enjoy one another and honor each other.
As I honor Mr. Julius “Dr. J” Erving on his special moment in this lifetime, I want to thank him and his management team for allowing me as a photojournalist to share a portion of this great story with Splash Magazine readers. My official report to the Medical and Sport field is, “Dr. J” has written and filled his prescription as a person, a player and now a storyteller.
Copyright © 2013.DECEMBER This story written by Renee Sudderth for Splash Magazines. It is not to be sold or reproduce without written permission of Renee Sudderth