“I WANT TO TAKE YOU HIGHER” | THE TAO OF JULIUS ERVING

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Introducing the first of hopefully many guest posts by TSY’s good friend and resident menswear savant– Mr. Eli M. Getson. Eli and I worked together years ago at Polo Ralph lauren– I always appreciated his quick smile, incredible humor, and fun-loving style.  Mr. Getson has long been threatening to contribute to TSY with his own nostalgic ramblings & rants on sports, music & menswear– and now he’s finally making good on his word.

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Julius Erving Dr J free throw line dunk

Julius Erving Nets Dr. J Julius Erving

Dr. J Julius Erving

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Tao can be roughly translated into English as path, or the way.  It is basically indefinable–  referring to a power which envelops, surrounds and flows through all things, living and non-living.  The Tao regulates natural processes and nourishes balance in the Universe.  It has to be experienced in order to be truly understood.

For me, no other athlete better embodies this “flow” — using the natural passive power in the universe that flows through all of us and turning it into kinetic energy — than Julius “Dr. J” Erving. I will never forget watching him back in the day– high socks, short shorts, Converse high tops, his luxurious Afro blowing slightly back as he elevated, and the red, white, & blue ball of the ABA held in his massive hand so it looked like a grapefruit as he prepared to ascend to the hoop to wreak utter devastation on the opposition, and leave the earthbound mortals unable to do anything except gape in awe.

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julius-erving.jd.hanlon

If you weren't following pro hoops at the time, you simply can't imagine the excitement generated when Dr. J, the ABA legend, moved from the New York Nets to the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers before the 1976-77 season. Remember that games were rarely televised back then, so most of America had only heard tales of the graceful 6-7 forward with the big hands and the gravity-defying artistry. When folks first saw Dr. J, their eyes popped: It seemed as if he could temporarily suspend himself in air while coasting from one side of the basket to the other. And thus was born the concept of "hang time." --SI Vault, image by JD Hanlon

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For me, the Doctor is and will always remain the most stylish of athletes.  The rare cat who made it look easy, even though it isn’t; a creative soul who showed you could showcase your individual gifts and still be part of a team; and the embodiment of that often abused word — FLAVOR.   While I respect the fact that a lot of those who came after — MJ, Dominique, Kobe, LeBron, Vince Carter etc. — can perhaps elevate higher and dunk harder– none possess the flow and graceful moves of the Doc.  It is this, and this alone, that made Julius seem that he had tapped into the life force of the universe– hence his Tao.

Also, unlike a lot of his followers in the sport– Dr. J was not demonstrative after obliterating an opponent with a devastating dunk.  Many years ago I was in the old Philadelphia Spectrum watching the Sixers play an otherwise meaningless February game against the Atlanta Hawks.  The Hawks had a fine power forward named Dan Roundfield who somehow was locked-up with Julius on the baseline.  Julius took two dribbles, one huge step, and then elevated.  Roundfield backed off and leaped in the air to meet him and attempt to cut off Dr. J’s approach to the hoop– however he did not have Erving’s gift of flight and Julius just kept flying higher and proceed to reverse dunk, with two hands, on Roundfield. This was a facial of legendary proportions, and one that would have elicited much screaming, jumping, and chest-bumping today.  Doc just nonchalantly ran up the court as if nothing had happened, even if we all knew that something epic had just taken place.  Once again, Tao in practice– totally feeling the freedom and power, yet not having to go crazy about it, being totally in the moment.

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Julius Erving

Julius Erving Julius Erving

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Julius Turquoise Erving

Classic 70′s style– Julius Erving with first wife, Turquoise, in happier days– love her chic head scarf. via Larry Berman

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In today’s world where information is available 24/7, and you can see the latest highlight on 50 different channels at 50 different angles, it’s refreshing for me to remember that for a large part of his career Julius performed in the shadows of the ABA– before the  NBA merger and pre cable.  His exploits are almost comparable to gunslingers like Wyatt Earp or Doc Holliday, many knew of them but few had seen them with their own eyes.   The legendary exploits of the Doctor only grew in magnitude and mythology  as I got older, and they got more distant in time.

– Eli M. Getson

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Julius Erving dunk Julius Erving dunk

Julius Erving finger roll

Julius erving jump shot Julius Erving finger roll

Julius Erving

Julius Erving free throw dunk Larry Bird Julius Erving

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11 thoughts on ““I WANT TO TAKE YOU HIGHER” | THE TAO OF JULIUS ERVING

  1. “I want to take you higher” – The Tao of Creed. Just Kidding. The New York Nets uniforms have never been topped in all professional sports. Best unis of all time as far as im concerned.

  2. Just shows how out of it I am in that the “I Want to Take You Higher” reference was from Sly and the Family Stone. Have no idea who Creed is. What can I say, I stopped listening to music in 1976. Agree on the old Nets unis, an all time classic.

  3. “Dr. J was not demonstrative after obliterating an opponent with a devastating dunk.”

    This is called “good sportsmanship,” something that Dr. J was the embodiment of, and that Cassius Clay did more to destroy than any other modern athlete. This is Clay’s true legacy, and it is a shameful, disgusting one.

    He ought to be castigated for the damage he did to sportsmanship, and, thereby, sports.

  4. There was a time, before cable, before media saturation, before rampant endorsement billion dollar tie ins, when Atheletes just played sports. For my Nickel Dr J was king of the late 70s. I was just old enough to start sinking em on a regulation hoop.My whole junior high school (Near Detroit) became Sixers fans. Dr J was a walking GOD! The ultimate dunk! He looked about 14 feet tall on the little news/sports clips they would show. Sure plenty of guys have better “career stats” but nobody looked better doing it!

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