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Sunday, Nov. 27, 2011
Dr. J sale conjures up memories
By PETER VECSEY
NEW YORK — For someone who did Julius Erving's bidding for almost three decades, it warmed my innards to see so many others still have the touch.
Erving's weeks-long, online auction of personal memorabilia wrapped up last weekend with Dr. J pocketing $3.5 million, minus taxes, consignment percentage, Atlanta bank IOU, Irwin Weiner's agent fee in perpetuity and Ken Starr's annual commissary prison allowance.
Of the 144 items sold — 18 purchased by 76ers' CEO Adam Aron — the most coveted was his 1974 New York Nets ABA championship ring. It went for $460,000, purportedly a record for a sports ring, though not as much as Eddy Curry once paid for a Ring Ding.
Other six-figure sellers include Erving's '83 Sixers title ring and his NBA All-Star MVP trophy from that same season. Aron, looking to recruit arguably Philadelphia's most treasured athlete to join the franchise in some capacity, said the procured stash will go on display at the Wells Fargo Center and the team's practice facility.
In view of Erving's score, I'm tempted to see what I can get for my 1974 gold Nets championship watch.
In fact, for the right price, I could even be persuaded to part with my 1972 Westsiders' Rucker Park title jersey.
Probably my most prized possession is an Antoine Walker Celtics' jersey signed in my presence by Red Auerbach. I'd give that up, too, except there's a lien on it.
* * *
One of the countless calamitous consequences of the negotiating impasse between NBA owners and players is the unavailability of game footage for anybody who might be facing a documentary deadline . . . like Joyce Sharman.
Forty seasons ago, her husband, Bill, guided the Lakers to professional sports' longest winning streak, 33 straight. Joyce is coproducing the movie, but the way things are going, by the time it's finished it's not going to be all that timely.
Considering Bill is 85 and already three players from the team — Wilt Chamberlain, Harold "Happy" Hairston and John Q. Trapp — are deceased, while two others — LeRoy Ellis and Flynn Robinson — are battling cancer . . . and in view of the team's prolonged imprint, you'd think David Stern would sashay to the appropriate location and personally unlock the league's film archives.
Every living player on the team was interviewed, Joyce Sharman said. Many others, such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, whose Bucks squad convincingly shattered the streak, Bill Russell and Phil Jackson also provided accounts, descriptions and insights.
Lakers players figured 33 games without a loss would earn them some type of reward from infamously frugal owner Jack Kent Cooke, maybe an Hawaiian vacation or a monetary gift.
After all, the Lakers had filled the Fabulous Forum to capacity night after night and had captured the undivided attention of the national media. Fans throughout the country meticulously monitored the adventures of Wilt (league leader in rebounds at 19.2), Jerry West (assist leader at 9.7), Gail Goodrich (averaged 25. 9 points, one fewer than West), Hairston, Jim McMillian, Keith Erickson and Jim Cleamons; Pat Riley was an irregular and K.C. Jones was the lone assistant.
Well, as it turned out, Cooke did acknowledge the players' feat with a bonus. According to several interviewed, they received inexpensive pen and pencil sets.
"So, at the suggestion of Wilt," Joyce related, "some of the players placed their gifts in a pile and stomped on them. And then they went on to win the title, beating the Knicks 4-1 in the Finals."
If I've learned nothing else (no debate there) from disseminating and deciphering decades of drivel, I've deduced that athletes are like children . . . they should be seen and not heard.
The latest blithering example of that conclusion is Shaquille O'Neal. Once a dominant center, the jelly belly spent the last five seasons of his career careening around the league on rubber legs and cashing unearthly amounts of unearned checks in Miami, Phoenix, Cleveland and Boston.
The more impotent The Big Revisionist got, the more resentful he became of anybody who called him out or was easy target practice, as his new scratch-and-claw autobiography distastefully attests throughout.
Among the boundless literary gems in this ptomaine tome is Shaq's edgy relationship with Pat Riley. Historians might accurately recall that O'Neal, after his Hollywood breakup with Kobe Bryant, owner Jerry Buss and a Kardashian to-be-named later, he couldn't wait to take his talons to South Beach.
Heaping helpings of praise on Padre Riles, Shaq referring to him, as I recollect, "the perfect coach" and embraced the prospect of playing for him because "I come from a military family and discipline is what I need."
The coach wanted two things: owner Micky Arison to invest $100 million in Shaq and for O'Neal not to turn into the Pillsbury Dough Boy.
So now, a bit more than three seasons (February 2008) after being deported from Miami, Shaq is ripping Riley, citing, among others, an expletive-laced incident where he went face-to-face with the coach — as Alonzo Mourning and Udonis Haslem tried to intercede — over teammate Jason Williams' expulsion from practice for being 30 or so seconds late.
Not to worry; it's all good now for Shaq. Another chapter, another settling of a score, thrill killing, twisted perception or fabrication. The more spiteful the spew, the higher Riley, Kobe, Kareem, Magic Johnson, Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh get bumped up in my esteem.
TNT could not have signed someone more qualified to match blissful ignorance, tedious babble and self-serving mouthfuls with Charles Barkley.
On second thought, should the NBA ever get around to staging the 2011-12 season, Shaq might make Sir Cumference and Kenny Smith look like geniuses . . . or, at least, idiot savants.
Peter Vecsey covers the NBA for the New York Post.