The great Julius Erving was a lot of things. He’s a Hall of Famer, definitely one of the all-time greats, a ferocious dunker, and more importantly, a father. For sure, some may assume that “Dr. J” mentors his kids to become incredible basketball players too. While it is somewhat true, Erving revealed that this wasn’t exactly the case in his household.
The Doctor has one condition
If you think about it, there’s no better way to learn the Xs and Os of the game than from Dr. J. However, the Doctor said he could be a teacher, but only to those pupils who are willing to learn. And that’s not negotiable.
This has been Erving’s philosophy when it comes to his children. Yes, it was inevitable that they would witness how their legendary father did his thing on the court, but they would only get the perk of being taught once they immersed themselves in the game the same way Dr. J did.
Still, Erving doesn’t require his children to have an affinity for his game or basketball as a whole. But once they do, make no mistake, Dr. J will teach them the tricks of the trade.
“You can expose your children to exactly the same things, but they're all going to become different people. That's great, because I don't want them to be me, I want them to be them,” Erving told Esquire in 2017. “I never forced basketball on any of my kids or my nephews. I wanted them to ask to be taught. When you have a willing participant, who says, ‘Please, teach me how to play,’ that's when my eyes light up.”
It’s no walk in the park
While being trained by a legend like Erving is indeed a privilege, the man in question would be the first to admit that achieving greatness is not as easy as it sounds. It’s not something that even the greatest player of all time could preach and teach. It has to be learned and earned.
“It’s difficult to be the top dog, to be the last one standing,” Erving once said of his legacy. “There’s a certain mentality, there’s a certain attitude, there’s a certain sink-or-swim piece to it that sometimes it takes experiencing the loss and figuring it out before you can be successful…. It’s nothing you can assume or take for granted.”
What’s the most important lesson Erving wants us to learn? It’s a good start to have a great teacher, but the rest has to come from you.