Dr. J and Larry Legend. Two great nicknames and two of the greatest NBA players of all time. They even had a video game together. Also, probably the only time I remember two legendary athletes outside of boxers fighting each other. While I think Larry Bird was probably the better player, I do think that Dr. J was underrated. I know that sounds weird to say, but people sometimes just think of Julius Ervingas a dunker. First of all, by the time he got to the NBA after playing five years in the ABA he was 26 years old. He made the finals three times before Moses Malone got there with not nearly the same amount of talent that Larry Bird or Magic Johnson played with. His situation was actually closer to Michael Jordan and until Moses, he never played with anyone as good as Scottie Pippen.
The Sixers moved into a new arena about twelve years ago, but the Spectrum (where the Sixers played for all of Dr. J’s time with the Sixers) was kept open for events such as the circus, ice skating shows, and concerts. The Spectrum had some great NBA battles between the Sixers and Celtics, which for my money for about twenty years was the best rivalry in sports. It was eventually uprooted by the Celtics and Lakers in the mid 80’s. The Spectrum is set to be demolished to build a new entertainment complex with shops and restaurants, but first the Sixers are playing one last game in the Spectrum tonight.
They’re pulling out all the stops including bringing back Dr. J and other Sixers legends for the game. I know the stations will be pissed at me because they’re competitors, but the allure of putting together a post with both Dr. J and Larry Bird talking about their memories from the Spectrum and other great memories from their career was too great.
After the jump see quotes and hear the interviews from both Dr. J and Larry Legend.
“We made the finals four out of our first seven years in Philly. And that was a special era. Even the three times when we finished as the second best team in the world, there’s a certain type of respect and reverence that should go along with that. Just that you put your team and your city in a position to compete for the title merits something. And as I look back at that time, I look back obviously with disappointment from not winning you know three of those years, but I don’t look back with regret for having put the city on the map and put the city in the eyes of the basketball world.”
Why do you think today’s game is so different from when you played?
“I think one of the major differences is every player to a man is regarded as, at least maybe in his own mind, a basketball star. During our era, there was a clear delineation between a guy who was a star, a guy who was a role player, and a guy who was just happy to be there. I don’t think you have too many guys today that are just happy to be there. The economics just set it up that way where there’s a star mentality 1 through 12. It’s exceptional when you find somebody who is humble and happy to be there and capable of deferring to the guys that are the actually stars.”
What do you remember most from the Spectrum?
“I think it was a little intimidating to some of the teams that were bottom tier. They came in and knew there was no chance of an upset. Particularly in the years under Billy’s (Cunningham) guidance. He just wouldn’t let an inferior team come in and beat us in our building.”
On the Sixers finally getting over the hump and winning the title in 1983:
“Moses was obviously the key, being able to dominate Kareem. Very few people can claim that in Kareem’s twenty years. Very few players can claim that they played a series against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and outscored them, outrebounded them, and basically outplayed him. That was Billy’s marching orders for Moses and Moses was like ‘Ok, I got it man’. As far as he was concerned his whole career Kareem never outplayed him and he went on the record with that!”
One guy the fans loved to boo in the Spectrum was Larry Bird. My grandfather used to take me to all the Sixers – Celtics games and I remember just watching Bird during warm-ups and being in awe when he would hit 40 straight shots from all over the court. I saw some great Sixers-Celtics games, but my favorite moment was seeing Sedale Threatt knock out Danny Ainge with one punch on Super Bowl Sunday.
Larry Legendjoined Mac and Mayes on ESPN Radio Philadelphia to talk about his memories from the Spectrum. He even talked about my favorite player of all time, Andrew Toney.
“We had some great games, great battles in there. Playing against some of there best teams they had in Philly it was awesome. I loved the Spectrum, I enjoyed playing there in front of their fans and like I said earlier they had some great teams”
On if he shoot better at some places than others and what’s wrong with shooting in today’s game:.
“Yeah, I didn’t like to play in big domes, Detroit, out in Seattle, the basket looked real small to me. The Spectrum had a great background, the rims were shiny and they looked a little bit bigger than most places. Usually I liked to play on the West Coast, you know more run and gun style and a lot more opportunities to show your whole talents.”
“The thing I see in the game that is missing is the mid-range shot. Take a couple of dribbles, 15-18 foot shots, I think that’s really lagging in our game today.”
On his battles with Doc as opposed to Magic:
“Doctor was at the end of his career. I never got to play at him when he was at the height of his career. The one thing people forget is I played against the Philadelphia 76ers in a lot more battles than we played against the Lakers. There’s a lot bigger battles against the Sixers than there were against the Lakers.”
On the fight between him and Doc in a pre-season game (see pic at beginning of post):
“There was a lot of things going on, but I don’t want to get into it. I really never discussed it. It was unfortunate that it happened. It was very unfortunate for me when Moses grabbed me from behind and Doctor got a couple of shots on me.”