NBA GOAT Round 1 Matchup: Erving vs. Johnson

Finally, we return to our little project, the NBA Greatest of All-Time Tourney.  This one’s gonna be a little tough for moi, because one half of the matchup is one of my all-time favorite players, but also inherently complex because Erving played almost half of his career in the ABA,which obviously is not the NBA.  For argument’s sake, his ABA numbers are going to be included, but only his NBA awards will count.

Records- Where to begin?  The good Doctor is fifth all time in points, sixth all time in steals and 13th all time in offensive boards.  Erving was a pretty well-rounded player, and his stats show it well.  Magic, on the other hand, isn’t as high on as many different categories, but the ones he is on, he’s near the top.  Having the third most assists and the highest career assist per game totals are impressive, but in the end Julius just has more on is statistical resume.  Johnson has three Finals MVP’s, 12 ASG appearances, and is a nine time 1st team all NBAer. Julius was elected to an astounding 16 All Star Games, 11 of which were NBA ASGs, is a six time 1st team all NBAer, and twice was an ASG MVP in the NBA. The place where Magic has the distinct advantage is in rings.  His five to Erving’s one gives him the edge. ADVANTAGE: MAGIC

Context- Both of these players played on some of the greatest teams the respective franchises have ever known.  Dr. J was the leader of the legendary Fo-Fo-Fo 1982-1983 Sixers team, which included Mo Cheeks, Moses Malone, Andy Toney and Bobby Jones, and also played with the Round Mound of Rebound the following three seasons.  Magic was the point man for the equally if not more legendary Showtime Lakers, alongside Kareem, McAdoo, Worthy and Wilkes.  This one’s hard to throw to either player, but it has to go to Magic on this one.  He did more with more, and has those rings to prove it. (Side note: It’s interesting that both of these guys had a distinct and popular rivalry with Larry Bird.  I think Magic had the edge over Erving on Bird, too.)  ADVANTAGE: MAGIC

MVP Awards- Magic has three, Dr. J has one in the NBA.  Give it to Earvin, not Erving. ADVANTAGE: MAGIC

Innovation- Here’s where it gets tricky.  Erving came into the NBA and was an instant success and a dominant force.  He defined what it means to be a highflyer while at the same time legitimizing the ABA AND proving himself an all-time talent.  A new position needed to be created for Magic, the “point forward”.  He was so different, that he could easily play EVERY position on the floor successfully.  Just look at the 1980 Finals in which he took over for Kareem at center and had one of the best games of his entire career.  (Another crossing in these two players’ paths, the Sixers faced off with the Lakers in that Finals.) Magic was just to special and innovative to not win this category. ADVANTAGE: MAGIC

Transcendence- Another difficult category.  As popular and legendary as Dr. J was and is, Magic gets this one as well.  Johnson was the face of some of the greatest teams of all time, and is a true Hall of Fame talent.  But none of that is as important, I think, as what he did for HIV/AIDS awareness in America and around the world.  Magic showed that AIDS wasn’t nessicarily a death sentence.  You don’t get much more transcendent than influencing culture like that.  ADVANTAGE: MAGIC

Leadership-  While Magic helped lead the Lakers to five titles, he did exactly that: he HELPED lead.  Earvin always had that Kareem guy helping him out in the long run.  The closest Dr. J had to a Kareem was Moses.  A good player in his own right, Moses certainly had a leadership role on those Sixers teams, but nothing like the legend of the Doctor had.  Chalk this one up for Erving. ADVANTAGE: ERVING

So in the end, this matchup wasn’t as close as it at first seemed.  As much as I want to give it to Julius, he doesn’t have the greatness that Magic had and has.  Sorry Doctor, this is Magic’s win.

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~ by rman620 on January 29, 2009.

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