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“It's difficult to be the top dog” — Julius Erving talks about what it takes to be an ABA and NBA champion

Having heard "The Doctor" speak his mind about winning, there’s no wonder why he is a true legend. Be it the ABA or the NBA.
Philadelphia 76ers great Julius Erving

Julius Erving

During his ABA days, Julius Erving was the man, having been arguably the league’s most celebrated superstar. His electrifying dunks and fearless attitude on the court drove fans to a frenzy, but Erving proved that his game wasn’t just about highlights. Dr. J also knew how to win, and he carried that mentality to the NBA.

A true champion

Erving knew that the ABA and the NBA were different. In the ABA, Dr. J dominated and hovered within 27 to 32 points per game in five consecutive seasons. His illustrious stint in the league was capped off by two championships with the New York Nets. In the NBA, Erving never went beyond 27 points per outing, and it took him seven years before he finally won his first and only NBA championship with the Philadelphia 76ers.

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Reflecting on his historic spells with the ABA and the NBA, Erving said most people don’t realize that it’s hard to be “the top dog” in two different yet similarly competitive basketball leagues. Fortunately for him, he was able to keep the same mentality and attitude despite all the adversities.

It’s difficult to be the top dog, to be the last one standing,” Erving told Bleacher Report in 2015. “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.

The Doctor knows what winning should mean

To stand out in what many consider arguably the most competitive era of the NBA, Erving sure knows how sweet a victory is. So for “Dr. J,” it’s only proper that champions should have their “crowning moment” for everyone to pay homage to what they have accomplished.

“I think ultimately, you have to have that crowning moment where you are a champion,” Erving once said. “As far as winning multiple championships being the determining factor, in a team sport, it’s little different than a sport like golf or tennis. In golf you can win a major tournament and it will take you Thursday from Sunday. In basketball, it will take you from September to June to win a title, and you need 11 other guys who are in sync with you to make it a reality.

In the NBA, many are great, but not all have the mentality that Erving had during his legendary career. Having heard “The Doctor” speak his mind about winning, there’s no wonder why he is a true legend. Be it the ABA or the NBA.

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