Julius Erving, aka Dr. J, has been enshrined in the NBA Hall of Fame longer than most NBA players have even been alive. He entered the Hall of Fame in 1993 and the average age of NBA players is 26.1 years old. It’s simple math.
Suffice it to say there isn’t much Julius Erving hasn’t seen around the game of basketball.
I recently had the chance to sit with Julis Erving for five minutes and discuss his partnership with the Degree® Walk-On program.
Between the Final Four and National Championship, Degree announced their 5th Walk-On to be awarded a a $25,000 NIL deal to ‘cover the average costs and living expenses’ for a year of college.
Degree’s 5th Walk On NIL recipient was Brayden Reynolds of Farleigh Dickinson University whose team just upset #1 overall seed Purdue during the NCAA Tournament. It was such a monumental moment that if you type ‘FDU’ into the GIF search on Twitter, Brayden Reynolds pumping up the crowd while beating Purdue is the first GIF that pops up.
Here’s Brayden with 3 of the other 4 Degree NIL Walk-On $25K recipients. The 5th recipient, Andre Johnson Jr., plays for UConn and getting ready for the National Championship against SDSU:
Julius Erving presented Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Brayden Reynolds with a $25,000 NIL check and afterward, we spoke about NIL. I asked Julius if having NIL would have changed his decision to go play for UMass back in 1969 before going on to be drafted in 1972.
Julius Erving On If He Ever Thought He’d See NIL
Cass: “Did you ever think you’d see something like NIL in your lifetime?”
Julius Erving: “Umm, not to the degree, not to the degree that it’s affected the game with the transfer portal too.”
C: “It came in quick.”
Julius Erving: “Right, there is this player on San Diego State, and the last time I saw him was 4 years ago he was playing with my son at Cal-Berkeley. Now he’s at San Diego State (Matt Bradley). Now he’s here.”
C: “Do you think NIL would’ve changed your UMass decision at all back when you were choosing a college?”
Julius Erving: “It wouldn’t have changed my decision because I came out 6’3”, 165. And I grew to 6’4” and then 6’6”. So my maturation and my physical growth happened at UMass.”
“Then after in the offseason, I’d play Summer League ball and went to the Olympic Development Camp and played over in Europe. And I then came out playing Rucker (Park) League.”
“So it (UMass) was instrumental. That was what God wanted, that was his plan and it kept me from getting a big head too early.”
What Drew Dr. J To This Opportnity
I asked Julius Erving what drew him to this NIL partnership with Degree. As an elder statesman and father of three, his answer didn’t surprise me at all. It was all about getting to work with kids.
Julius Erving said: “The Hall of Fame. Just (getting to) come and recognize the player’s performances, particularly the walk-ons. Then getting in front of future generations of youngsters and getting to make them feel good, what’s not to like about that? I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
Julius also told my colleague Martin Rickman at DIME how walk-ons are special. Saying “Walk-ons are the heart of a team. Their determination is what keeps them around.”
We then spoke about health. Julius Erving just celebrated his 73rd birthday in February and easily looks 10 years younger. I asked him about his key to staying slim and fit.
C: “At 73-years-old you look to be in incredible health. What is one key to staying healthy at your age?”
Julius Erving: “I think family life. Most of my meals are at home cooked by my wife. I grew up eating a lot of soul food. And have switched.”
“(The food) has probably become a little spicier but probably a bit healthier because (at home) there’s a lot of vegetables, a lot of green stuff in there. And I get most of my meals at home so I can monitor how much intake of food I get, portion control.”
Julius Erving’s trophy cabinet has no shortage of awards. He was the 1983 NBA Champion, 1981 NBA MVP, 2-time ABA Champion, an ABA Playoffs MVP, 11-time NBA All-Star, 2-time NBA All-Star Game MVP, 3-time ABA Scoring Champion, and the list of accolades goes on.
Julius Erving’s entire NBA career came with the Philadelphia 76ers who currently have another All-Star in serious contention for the NBA MVP award, Joel Embiid. You can read the DIME article here to see what Julius thinks Embiid needs to do in order to win the coveted MVP award this season.
(This interview has been edited for length and clarity)