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 then he explained how he handled it from day one, taking responsibility, supporting Alexandra in a nice life from afar — Samantha had bolted for home, California, when she was pregnant, and raised the kid out there. Handled amicably, no legal stuff, Turquoise had known about this child all along, and hadn’t Samantha done a great lob and he respected that, and now this was, in fact, a relief for him, for his family, that it was public. And of course you knew the affair and the kid were a mistake but, just like that, here he was, slipping into stride with himself: Dr. J took it on, seamlessly, the right way. Of course he did.

And then Cory. Three years ago, the family down in Orlando now, after Julius took the front-office job with the Magic. Their baby, 19, with a drug problem, who’d been in and out of rehab for six years, who’d been busted with his older brother Cheo two years earlier burglarizing a car, a crack pipe on them (the charges were later dropped), went missing for 40 days. And there was Julius on Larry King pleading for information, pleading, right into the camera, for Cory to come home. Was he holed up in a crackhouse in Altamonte Springs? Was he already dead? You wondered — a bad private thought here — how it could be that he had two sons with drug problems: because Julius wasn’t paying attention? Because the kids were spoiled, left to do whatever? But the look on his face there on Larry King, a father’s worse horror, a guy who was always so careful and private especially about his family begging on national TV in a last-gasp possibility for his son’s life. Then the subsequent news that yes, he was dead, he’d run his car into a pond a mile from their house, taking a shortcut home, there was some coke in his system but not enough to short-circuit his driving, it was just an accident, a kid battling his way in and out of drug troubles racing back with a loaf of bread for a barbecue later that afternoon. Not a blemish on Julius Erving’s reputation but a tragedy.

So there was some bad trouble, yet the deal on him held.

But now this. Julius and Turk had been like royalty in Philly, running with Albert and Doris Taxin, Bennett and Judie Weinstock, Leonard Tose and whoever he was married to. Everyone touched by how beautifully, smartly, richly they conducted themselves. Now she’d booted him, filed, and there it was in the divorce papers: Julius c1aiming to be worth $10 million. (Sounds awfully low.) Turquoise spending $1,150 a month on “grooming” (is that possible?), her cable shut off because he’s not paying her bills — the sublimely embarrassing c1awing and scratching of a big-stakes divorce. Something else is in that file: another kid, five-year-old Jules, with somebody named Doris Madden who sometimes calls herself Pearl. And the divorce papers allude to yet another woman Turquoise says Julius is supporting, one with a son who lives in Hollywood, Florida.


What’s more, when he quit the Orlando Magic early last summer, it was clear that management was ready for him to go — his mentoring and PR duties were never very well-defined or fruitful, especially in light of his personal turmoil. So Julius was leaving basketball.

All this puts everything in doubt. You feel, in fact, like you’ve been kicked in the stomach. You try to take the high road that somebody’s marriage and sex life are none of your business — what’s the point of taking an athlete’s life apart? — but that misses the point. The possibility that you’ve been duped, that he showed off as one thing all these years, that he banked on the image, used what you were only too willing to believe but it’s bullshit — you want to know. Is it?