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Julius Erving remembers his matchups against Michael Jordan: 'He was trying to find himself'


When Michael Jordan was drafted in the NBA by the Chicago Bulls, numerous coaches and analysts knew he would immediately be great. Still, nobody expected it would be to an extent he showcased already in his rookie season where he already seemed like one of the best players in the NBA. Soon fans started making comparisons, and the first player that came to mind was the already established icon Julius Erving a.k.a The Doctor. Seeing Jordan was like seeing the 2.0 version of Julius even though Erving was already at the tail end of his career. Similarities were astonishing from the leaping ability, explosiveness, giant hands that quickly controlled the ball, and most importantly, unbelievable swagger.

Erving recently made a guest appearance on the Knuckleheads podcast featuring Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson. He talked about the times he played against Jordan and shared his observations from those encounters. Even though Jordan blossomed early on in the NBA, showcasing his ability to dominate on both ends of the floor, he came to an incredibly unbalanced Bulls team with many internal problems. That is something that Erving noticed as well, observing Jordan and the Bulls during those years.

MJ and I played against each other — there were three years where we overlapped. I caught him before he really hit his stride. He was scoring a lot of points, but he was trying to find himself. Find the right mix of teammates. There were a lot of things going on during that time.

Julius Erving, via Knuckleheads Podcast

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The fans that were able to see both Erving and Jordan battle it out are fortunate because even though it was for a short period, they had some exciting matchups against each other. You can find some highlights on Youtube, where you see Jordan in his athletic prime and raw talent while Julius, despite being in his mid 30's was still one of the most athletic players in the NBA. Erving recalls when they both traded dunks against each other, while Jordan initiated a bit of trash-talking, he can repeat that anytime during the game.

It was funny, because I remember one time he came down and dunked on our whole team … and then I went down and dunked on his team. So I'm looking at him, and he's looking at me. And he was like … 'I can do it again, you know?' And I was like, 'Alright, well, I only get one shot at it and I made it!' But it was fun. Those years where we overlapped, I always liked him and felt he had a lot of respect and admiration. He was going to carry the torch, and he certainly desired to do it. He did a hell of a job at it.

Julius Erving, via Knuckleheads Podcast

The game they are probably talking about is the one that happened in 1985 in which Jordan scored 31 points while showcasing some spectacular plays on both ends of the floor. This game also featured a young Charles Barkley and anyone and the rest of that great Sixers squad, a legitimate title contender for several years.

Erving himself was a class act and a respected NBA player throughout his entire career, and Jordan was the same in that regard, but he even took it to the next level because of his impact on popularizing the game globally. After Erving retired in 1987, it was left in good hands with Jordan leading the way and soon establishing himself as probably the most outstanding player in NBA history.

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