Push it to the limit- BAC
NBA LEGEND GEORGE GERVIN SITS DOWN WITH THE EDITOR AT BAC MAGAZINE.
By Arzelle Lewis,
BAC Magazine Editor | ICEMAN Exclusive Interview!
George Gervin, born in Detroit in 1952, is an all-time famous basketball player with a humanitarian desire to serve in San Antonio area; both on and off the court, he has shown Americans what it means to be the best, both in basketball and as a human being.
Known as “The Iceman” for his cool disposition, Gervin played in both the American Basketball Association (ABA) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Virginia Squires, San Antonio Spurs, and Chicago Bulls. Averaging at least 14 points per game in all 14 of his cumulative seasons, and completed his career in the NBA averaging 26.2 points per game, making him one of the greatest shooting guards in American basketball history.
Now, he gives back in his local San Antonio homestead through the George Gervin Youth Center, which he founded in 1991. The center provides both education for kids pre-K through high school and community services that have become invaluable to the San Antonio area, including family residential and transitional housing services, drug education and prevention, social re-entrance after incarceration, education for underprivileged children, and retirement facilities.
Gervin’s basketball career, littered with monumental players like Julius Erving, Larry Kenon, and Michael Jordan, explored the variegated nature of basketball in America prior to the advent of television. Owner of BAC Arzelle Lewis was fortunate enough to gain a few one-on-one insights via a video interview with Gervin.
While on the Virginia Squires, Gervin came under the tutelage of Julius Erving, otherwise known as “Dr. J,” one of the most talented players in NBA history, and the first player who brought dunks alive.
What was it like playing with Dr. J?
“I really enjoyed playing with him. I learned that I had to be ready, be ready to play. By me having that opportunity to start with him, and be a teammate first [rather than an opponent,] he really wanted to find out what made me tick. I give him a lot of credit for helping motivate and instilling in me the confidence I needed as a player.”
“Everybody needs a somebody, and in the beginning, he was my somebody. He helped me become the best I can be.”
Who else was influential to you during that time at the beginning of your career?
“Fatty” Taylor [aka Roland Morris Taylor] was on the Virginia Squires team with me too. He was one of the best defensive point guards in basketball. He made playing defense look easy; that’s an incredible talent that I think gets overlooked.”
“Dr. J and I would get a lot of credit for putting the ball in the hoop, but Fatty was a true leader. “We all looked up to him…with hard situations big bro Fatty was there. [His family] really made me feel at home.”
Who was it that gave you your nickname, ‘Iceman’?
“Fatty is the one who gave me the nickname; [he] is the one who gave me the name Ice Man. I was from Detroit, so I was always looking sharp, wearing Gators and Lizards. I drove a big El Dorado Cadillac. That and I didn’t sweat much. He mixed all of that [and] just started calling me Ice Man.”
What was it like ending your career in the NBA playing with Michael Jordan?
“I started my career with Julius Erving and ended my career with Michael Jordan. I saw a little young kid come up with this drive to be the best. It was kind of scary actually. Everyone wants to make comparisons, but there was no comparison with him and Doc. They were both athletic. Mike was a lot smaller than Doc. I think with Mike, they talk about him being the greatest of all time, but he had to learn from somebody too. He’s not a UFO after all.”
“Unfortunately [Mike} got hurt [that year]; he broke his ankle. He had to watch me for 35 games. I know it helped him. I was balling; I was 36 and at the end of my career. I know that I had to have some kind of influence on that kid. I was a 14-year vet. I wasn’t about to succumb to no man. I didn’t win a championship, [but] I had to be one of the greatest offensive players in history because, the way I scored the ball, I haven’t seen it since.
“The way I was playing was like Fred Astaire; it was easy – it was dancing. I was gliding. Mike went right most of the time until he understood you had to go both ways. I went both ways. That was my game. I shot 51% my entire career.”
Why do you think Michael Jordan is said to be the best of all time?
“We say he’s the greatest of all time. I ain’t never heard him say he ain’t. He doesn’t talk about Kareem, about Erving. He doesn’t talk about anyone else. What criteria are you using to say is the greatest of all time? Greatest entertainer, better believe it. Michael came in at the perfect time where TV started dominating sports. And they sold it to you, cause all you heard was ‘Be like Mike.’”
“If I tell you something enough, you’re gonna soon enough believe it. [And] young folk don’t know the history. They took African American History out of schools, so it’s not a priority to our young folks, which is such a tremendous loss, because if you don’t know where you’re from…you won’t know where you’re going or why you’re going there.”
“You gotta know your history. It helps you understand the people who made these sacrifices for you, to have the opportunity you got, and if you understand that you’ll start doing the right thing, no matter what it is, sports, education.”
“Once you know the rules of the game or the rules of life, we are intelligent enough -some of us – to play the game. That’s the difference, but not enough of us. We’ve got a lot of rich people in the league, but the difference is, wealthy guys, write the rich guys checks. But they always sell how much money they are making, so they blind you.”
That’s similar to LaVar Ball and what he’s doing, isn’t it? Making a name for his sons with their own brand so they can be the wealthy ones. What’s your opinion on LaVar?
“I like him, man. I’m Ball fan; I think his kid is going to be really good for the league because he knows how to play. He doesn’t say anything. He just goes out and balls. Now LaVar says what he says, but so did Don King. Don King did a lot of talking too, and he’s probably one of the wealthiest men in sports. Ball knows something and it’s working for him, so I ain’t got nothing but respect for him.”
So many of our youth are just lost because the media is selling them what they want to sell. What do you think about that?
“Guys that played when I played are going to be forgotten [because no one is selling them]. Young people don’t know, for instance, that Alex English scored 2,000 points 7 years in a row for the Denver Nuggets. He’s another lost legend. You got all these 17-19-year-olds coming in blind. A lot of my guys are going to be forgotten if the Players Association – Lebron, Chris Paul – let us die. They have be the ones. The NBA doesn’t owe us anything; they gave us all our checks. But the history of the game should not be lost, players like Walter Clyde Frazier, Rick Barry, and Larry Kenon.”
Why do you think you were one of the greatest players?
“I entertained. I know. You’d come to a game and say, ‘Wow. I’ve never seen that before.’”
Now, the Iceman George Gervin has suited and shown up for his community. He doesn’t plan to fizzle out of history, and he most certainly doesn’t plan on giving up on his passions. The George Gervin Youth Center in San Antonio provide free public charter schooling to students through high school and community assistance to many populations of residents in need, all in a culturally-sensitive manner.
The school provides community members with services and housing to the retired, young adults, and pregnant teens.
It is clear that Gervin sustains his passion for basketball, for life, and for others. That is an admirable trait that all citizens ought to notice, and another legacy that we should never allow to die.
Visit http://www.gervin-school.org/ for more information on the George Gervin Youth Center and how you can help.