Julius Erving Doesn’t Want to Be a Hero Anymore

His son is dead, his marriage is unraveling over women and out-of-wedlock children, he has left the sport he loved, and he is without a home. Remember when Dr. J could fly?

And Turquoise found out about Julius’s young son Jules — though she got hit sideways with this one, too. An acquaintance had told her, innocently enough, about seeing Julius with his grandson. Little Cory, J’s kid? That wasn’t possible — J and Cory were up in Philly, and Julius barely saw them even when he went north. Turk went to Julius’s Magic office, asked him point-blank: What little boy you spending time with down here?

“We’ll talk about it later.”

That night he admitted it: another woman, another child. Bur his attitude was, as always, that she could take it or leave it; this was the deal, take it or leave it. Julius was banking on Turquoise folding, letting him off the hook. As always.

By this point, she’d been trying to come to terms with herself, who the hell she was in this marriage, for years. Her therapists had been telling her that one day she’d wake up, decide that she loved herself more than she loved Julius — as trite, and as monumental, as that. And then he’d have nothing on her. She could tell him to get the hell our of her house and mean it. And all he could do was stop paying her bills, play hide-and-seek with his fortune. That was the only thing he had on her.

But who a guy really is depends, of course, on where you look, who you ask. And with Julius Erving, there are a lot of stories, a thousand moments, like this one:

Back in 1978, Fran Blinebury was 24, a new writer for the Philadelphia Journal, covering the Sixers. At training camp that fall at Franklin & Marshall, he got on the hotel elevator, and just as the doors were closing, a hand — an incredible hand, the longest fingers — parted them. Oh no, what was he going to say to —?

“Hi, I’m Julius Erving. You’re the new writer, aren’t you? Listen, if you need anything, need any help, let me know. Just ask me.”

Last January, Blinebury, now working for the Houston Chronicle, was in town covering the NFC championship game. The evening before it, as he was walking through the downtown Marriott lobby:: “Hey! Fran!” He peered across the room, searching. “Over here. Get over here!” Blinebury went to a group of guys. “You weren’t going to stop and say hello?” Julius Erving laughed.

You can’t fake this stuff, not over the long haul. Erving and Blinebury opened wallets, shared pictures of their grandchildren. It’s high-fiving the old-fart golfers at the Taxin golf outing, sitting placidly in your lawn chair at the West Philly b-ball exhibit in Cory Erving’s memory to sign autographs in your ornate script — not “Dr. J” but “Julius Winfield Erving II” — leaning lower to explain to the wide-eyed tiniest in Iverson jerseys that, you know, maybe sports isn’t something you should count on because you could break a leg, so make sure you study. Julius Erving is a nice guy. He tries to do the right thing.