What followed the Draft was a legal conundrum between two teams, which ultimately got resolved in favor of the Virginia Squires — the ABA team Erving had already signed a contract with before he decided to take his talents to the NBA. The Hawks were forced to pay hefty fines, and the Bucks received draft picks as compensation after coming within an inch of assembling one of the greatest trios in NBA history.
And while Erving never got to play for the Bucks, he did spend a brief time playing with the Hawks, even after the NBA’s Board of Governors decided his NBA rights belonged to Milwaukee. Julius even participated in the team’s preseason games, playing alongside the likes of Lou Hudson and Pistol Pete Maravich.
I remember those exhibition games. I would just grab a rebound, throw it out to Pete and get on the wing. Pete would always find you. He got his points, but he loved to pass the ball. He could hit you in full stride in a place where you could do something with the ball. That was a measure of his greatness.Julius Erving, NBA
“It really was one of the joys of my life to play with Pete, to be in training camp with him,” Erving said about his experience playing with the Hall of Famer. “We used to stay after practice and play one-on-one. We would play for dinner after practice.”
That short stretch of exhibition games was enough for Erving to leave a strong impression on Maravich as well. His athleticism and Pete’s ability to make plays for others would’ve made one of the best duos in the league at the time — perhaps even on the NBA all-time list.
Julius was the most creative player that I’ve ever played with. It was so easy to play with him. I think during that time, my average was about 14 or 15 assists per game. I’d just come down the court, and his eyes would see mine – and I knew that he was going to the hoop. I’d just throw a little rainbow up there, and it’d be history because nobody could get up like Dr. J.Pete Maravich, NBA
Erving playing alongside Kareem and Big-O in Milwaukee may be the biggest what-if in NBA history. Pairing him up with Pistol Pete Maravich with the Hawks might be the close second, especially with the on-court connection the two developed after a few exhibition games. Had they stayed together with the Hawks, the organization’s 63-year-long championship drought would’ve been a lot shorter.