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?

She thought it might get better, when he retired. But it was worse, he was around less. Chasing business or fooling around. They lived parallel lives even when he was in Villanova, Julius always hitting the sack at three or four in the morning, Turk up at six with her kids. She liked Philly, had found a network of lunch friends — Doris Taxin, Joanne Keenan, Riki Wagman, women who schooled her in moneyed class. She was friends, too, with singer Teddy Pendergrass — Teddy’s seats were right next to hers at Sixers games — and somehow that became a big rumor about Turquoise: a partyer, in the car with Teddy and the transvestite the night of his accident in ’85, the wreck that broke his neck and paralyzed him. Turquoise, in fact, was not in the car; she was home in bed with Julius. Julius and Turk were among the first at the hospital early that morning to see him. Teddy himself told her what happened:

He was at the game that night with a woman, went out to a club afterward and ditched her for another. They left, heading for Teddy’s place, him driving. Weaving Wissahickon Drive, he put his hand up her dress, and at the moment of getting the genital news — a man! — lost control of his car.

Really, Turquoise has always liked to stay home, with her children. Julius liked to be out. And it was the same once the kids were old enough to start living on their own.

Then, Orlando. He called her one day six years ago from Chicago announcing a new life — “I’m signing tomorrow with the Magic. They’ll send a plane for you to go to the press conference.” So she moved south with him.

Turquoise and Cory — still in and out of rehab, trying to get a grip — hated Orlando. Their lives thickened with public trouble. Cheo and Cory were busted with a crack pipe, charged with breaking into a car. The Alexandra story broke, while Cheo was in jail in Orange County on a drug-related conviction; Julius visited him the next day to explain the deal, but too late: Cheo had already been in a fistfight with another inmate who clued him in to his half-sister by running his mouth about how good she looked, and what I’d like to do with that, and how long she been playin’ tennis, anyway’? And then they lost Cory. What made it worse, even harder to take, was that he seemed to be doing better, was starting to find himself.