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?

Turquoise finally decided she was not having it anymore. The women, the lying: “I kept those babies to myself all these years. But now I’ve got nothing to hide anymore. I’ve been hiding for years about Julius’s babies.”

She decides to get it off her chest, early one summer evening, in a private hallway of her apartment house on Locust — Philly is home again, where her kids live — what being married to Julius Erving is all about. It rook an enormous toll, worrying, constantly, that the truth would get out. She did not tell her own mother, or her children, or anyone — although her mother knew that things weren’t right, that Turk was on edge, that she was much too thin. Her marriage, though, that was her business. But that’s behind her now, and she looks different: a slightly plump 53-year-old woman with cropped hair tucked behind her ears. She’s happy with her weight. She’s happy with who she is — because she’s not lying anymore.

And she knows that maybe it is not smart to talk, to let this out, but she can’t help herself, she’s been silent about this for three decades: From day one, Julius was cheating on her. From the beginning. She’s been lying about those babies, protecting him, forever. She’s not doing it anymore.

The beginning was I972 in nothing Richmond, where he was playing for the Virginia Squires, his first pro team; she already had a son, Cheo, with Freddie Summers, who’d been one of the first black quarterbacks in the ACC at Wake Forest. After that marriage broke up, she came home to Winston-Salem, was visiting her brother in Richmond, went to a game and then a parry afterward and there was Julius — case closed.

Blind love, girlish love — even though she already had a baby. She and Julius were only 22. They married a year later, Julius adopted Cheo. within three years they had J and Jazmin. When Turquoise would find out about another woman, she’d confront him — Turquoise doesn’t take anything lying down — and he’d stop seeing her. One thing about Julius, he didn’t throw it in her face, he was careful. But then Turk, who was always around, even with three little kids she’d go to practically every home game as he played, now, for the Nets on Long Island, would find our about a new Julius bedmate. She’d make a scene, but swallow it. Being Mrs. Julius Erving — no matter what, no matter how many women, he was still the center for her; he and their kids were everything. “I would have — ” Turquoise blanches at her own crudeness because she is a lady but this is the truth, and one thing she’ll never do is protect Julius again, so she has to tell this truth too: “I would have eaten his shit.”

She did know about Alexandra all along, as Julius claimed. Or almost all along, and it’s not quite as Turquoise-is-cool-with-it as he made it sound when he came clean publicly.