Julius Erving, who has delighted professional basketball fans for 16 seasons, appears in his final All-Star game today (Ch. 2, noon) at the Kingdome.
The 36-year-old Philadelphia 76er was voted to the East starting lineup by fans, even though his name fails to appear among the league leaders in any statistical category. Those numbers obviously meant little to voters, who placed Erving in the backcourt with Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls.
Jordan, the NBA scoring leader through the first half of the season with a 37.2 average (through Feb. 1), received a record 1,141,733 votes. In all 3,017,794 ballots, another record, were cast.
Erving joins Jerry West and Bob Pettit as players to be chosen to the All-Star game every year of their careers. His final appearance in a game with his basketball peers will be his 11th in the NBA. Erving appeared in five American Basketball Association All-Star games as well.
“I’ve played against a lot of guys a lot of years and had the upper hand,” said Erving, named All-Star MVP in 1977 and 1983. “I don’t want to stay around, expose myself against guys I once handled every easily, who now I might have to struggle against.
“I have not been an average professional and this will probably be the last year where I can remain close to my standards.”
Erving will be junior to one All-Star player. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Los Angeles Lakers was voted to the squad an NBA-record 16th time by the West Conference coaches. Wilt Chamberlain, Bob Cousy and John Havlicek each appeared in 13 NBA All-Star games.
The 39-year-old Abdul-Jabbar, who will backup starter Akeem Olajuwon of the Houston Rockets, has not set a date for his retirement.
“He’s (Abdul-Jabbar) the King of the Hill,” said Erving. “He’s proven himself going on two decades and the way he’s rolling along, he might be able to play two and-a-half decades if he so elects.
“I think to endure this long--physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually--he’s definitely a special person.”
The 37th All-Star game will reunite Erving with Moses Malone of the Washington Bullets. Malone, the East starting center making his ninth All-Star appearance, was traded to the Bullets after four years with Philadelphia. Malone will face Olajuwon, whom he tutored when the Nigerian was playing at the University of Houston.
“He’s just coming into his prime,” said Malone of Olajuwon. “Give him a little more time and he’ll take this league apart.”
Rounding out the East starters are three-time league MVP Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics and last year’s scoring champion Dominique Wilkins of the Atlanta Hawks at forward. Bird, an All-Star MVP in 1982, will appear in his eighth All-Star game and Wilkins his second.
The East, which generally is considered to have the tougher competition from top to bottom, leads the series 24-12 and has won six of the last seven games. The East, behind the play of MVP point guard Isiah Thomas of the Detroit Pistons, defeated the West 139-132 last year at Dallas. Thomas, who has won the All-Star MVP two of the last three years, was named to the squad by the East coaches.
The rest of the West starters include Magic Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers and Alvin Robertson of the San Antonio Spurs in the backcourt and James Worthy of the LA Lakers and Tom Chambers of the Seattle SuperSonics at forward. Chambers, named to replace Houston’s injured Ralph Sampson, will be playing in his first All-Star game. Johnson makes his seventh All-Star appearance, Worthy and Robertson their second each.
The rest of the East squad is comprised of Charles Barkley of Philadelphia and Kevin McHale of Boston at forward; Bill Laimbeer of the Detroit Pistons and Robert Parish of Boston at center, and Maurice Cheeks of Philadelphia and Jeff Malone of Washington at guard. K.C. Jones of Boston will coach the East team.