Thanks to NBA’s original documentary ‘The Doctor’, aired in 2013, we were able to get a glimpse of Dr. J playing at the famed Rucker Park.
Since the ’50s, Rucker Park in Harlem hosted summer tournaments that brought names as big as Wilt Chamberlain and Connie Hawkins to the blacktop to play a version of the game where style was as essential as the substance.
Tom Hoover, who had played for the Knicks, had never heard of him, but soon enough, the kid named Julius was doing things that no one at the Rucker would ever forget.
We played him the first game and they kept saying ‘You wait till Julius gets in, you wait to Julius gets in,” and I’m like, ‘Who’s Julius? I’m in the NBA, what do I care about Julius.‘
He came down one time, I had the angle on him — but he dunked the ball so bad, the ball hit me in the top of the head, my teeth fell out on the ground, and the crowd roared. That helped build his reputation.
Keep in mind that Erving was a high school kid going against NBA players. You’d be happy if you could hold your own, but Erving did a lot more than that. He dominated.
Julius Erving brought the greatest crowd in the history of the Rucker Pro league. People were up in the trees, sitting on branches; everywhere you looked around, there were people. That is where the legend of Dr. J started.
There was just one thing left for Julius to earn at the Rucker. His nickname. Erving was called different names, ‘little hawk’ among others, and he even once corrected the announcers and told them was not to be called the ‘little hawk’ — that’s Connie Hawkins. Some of his nicknames were — Little Hawk, The Claw, and Black Moses. After being fed up with all the nicknames, he told everyone:
"If you wanna call me anything, call me Doctor."
Julius "Dr.J" Erving
So naturally, everyone started calling him Dr. J and the rest is history.