The NBA celebrates NBA 75 roster players almost daily from now until the end of the season. Today’s honoree is George Gervin, who began his career with the Virginia Squires of the ABA. This story originally appeared in the February 2, 1974 issue of The Sporting News under the title “Thin ‘Ice’ only endangers enemy squires.”
NORFOLK – The city of Detroit has reduced its production of automobiles, but continues to produce some of the best professional basketball players in the style of assembly lines.
George Gervin, a lean and graceful 6-8 forward for the Virginia Squires, is Motown’s latest and greatest high-scoring model.
Among the ABA’s top scorers since the start of the season, averaging more than 25 points per game, he was the only representative from the host franchise to vote to play in the league’s seventh annual All-Star Game here on the 30th. from January.
Gervin said he first became aware of the ABA after Spencer Haywood and then Ralph Simpson signed with the Denver Rockets. “I knew them both well,” Gervin said.
NBA 75: when the Spurs traded George Gervin, the face of a franchise
He had competed with both of them in the summer school leagues in Detroit. Mel Daniels, Maurice McHartley and John Brisker used to be at the games. The St. Cecelia Summer League had its share of homegrown ABA standouts, as well as some NBA players from the Pistons.
Charlie Edge, a 6-6 rookie forward for the Memphis Tams who competed on the same summer circuit, remembers Gervin in those games. “He took on anyone, like he does now,” Edge said. “He’s not afraid of anyone. Still, you had to play with him the same way and keep him from driving down the lane.”
Gervin can go to the basket as fast as anyone in the ABA, and that includes former teammate Julius Erving, now with the Nets. Gervin doesn’t give you every move in the air like Dr. J does, but he’s just as effective, he dunks just as often, and he’s a much better outside shooter.
Gervin had good reason to develop his outside shot. He said he has a very healthy appetite, “but nothing sticks,” so he weighs just 178 pounds. He handles the ball so well that he often becomes a guard when coach Al Bianchi thinks more strength is needed up front.
DUE TO HIS slim physique, fondness for colorful clothing, and cool demeanor on and off the court, his teammates call him, “Iceberg Slim,” after the famous pimp-turned-author who had a best-seller, and “Ice” for short.
“George is a bit of a gangster,” Erving said with a smile.
Surely, Gervin would have been called “Virginia Slim” if Charlie Scott, since joining the Phoenix Suns, hadn’t gotten ahead of him a few years ago.
The Squires have had more stars than their share since the ABA first located a franchise in Virginia. Owner Earl Foreman has sold them all: Scott, Rick Barry, and Warren Jabali, to name a few. Earlier this season, he sold Swen Nater for $ 300,000 to San Antonio.
“I thought I would be the last to go,” Gervin said. “A seven foot player who weighs 250 … that’s championship power.”
The CAPTAIN MUST think that he will get another star next time, if he keeps the Squires’ property. He thinks they’re easy, which is understandable, considering the Squires’ success in that area. They always have the best draft lists.
They signed Gervin midseason last year after he was declared ineligible to play at Eastern Michigan University at the beginning of his junior year. After leaving school, he had played a dozen games for the Pontiac (Michigan) team in the Continental Basketball Association when Foreman made him an offer that he could not refuse.
The school said Gervin was declared ineligible because of his score on an entrance exam required by the NCAA. He scoffs at the suggestion, saying that he had taken that exam a year and a half earlier. He believes he was expelled from college competition because of “the incident,” as he calls it, that occurred in NAIA playoff competition at the end of his sophomore season.
He lost his temper in the second half of a game with Norfolk State and simply hit the player who was defending him. “I had to be frustrated,” he says now when he remembers.
GERVIN HAD scored 25 points with seven minutes to go, but struggled to shoot on several forays on the court and lost his cool.
“I really wanted to win,” he said, trying to explain his behavior. “We had won 18 in a row. I couldn’t take it anymore; I just exploded. It was the first and last fight I had in a basketball game, even on the playgrounds where spirits were always raging. Like me.”
Those who know him best, including Coach Bianchi, agree with Gervin on that score. He is one of the most popular players on his team.
Virginia fans feel the same way. They yell “GEE GEE” every time they get the ball. There’s some showmanship in his blood, and he likes to take down defensive rebounds with one hand and drive down the lane or baseline for dunks.
He throws his long jump shot like the Knicks’ Jerry Lucas, feet forward and perpendicular to his hands at the instant of release, his body bent like a boomerang heading at a vertical tilt away from the basket.
Gervin gets especially excited when the Squires compete with the Nets. He likes to pair tricks with Erving, who played alongside him the second half of last season.
In his first meeting this season, for example, Gervin scored 43 points compared to 39 for Dr. J. “However, I don’t compare myself to him,” Gervin said. “He is one of the best, there is no doubt about that.
“I DON’T CARE if they compare me to him. But I’m not trying to imitate him. I have my own planting foot.”
There are times when Gervin’s shot selection is strictly Early George McGinnis, and he has a lot to learn. The Squires held a one-point lead in the final minute of their win over the Nets, for example, when Gervin broke loose on a 35-foot three-point attempt with none of his teammates under the board and missed.
“I don’t know why I did it,” Gervin said a few days later, “he had to go. I felt it.
“Sometimes I’m not completely tuned in on the court, but that should come with experience. I don’t feel like I’m a superstar yet because to be considered one, we have to win. Otherwise, I am nothing. I feel like I can play; I feel like I can do it, but I haven’t played a full season yet. I haven’t fully assembled my game yet. “