George Gervin Biography

George Gervin averaged at least 14 points in all 14 of his ABA and NBA seasons, and finished with an NBA career average of 26.2 points per game. Despite his lack of defensive recognition, Gervin retired with the second-most blocks of any NBA guard.

Only Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan have won more league scoring championships than Gervin's four, and he was the first guard ever to win three titles in a row.

During his career, Gervin recorded a remarkable streak of scoring double figures in 407 consecutive games. He played in 12 straight All-Star Games, including nine in the NBA, and he averaged at least 21 points in each of those dozen years. In his nine NBA seasons with San Antonio, the Spurs won five division titles. He won an All-Star Game MVP Award and twice placed second in voting for the regular-season MVP Award.

Gervin's No. 44 jersey has been retired by the Spurs. And in 1996, Gervin enjoyed a banner year as he was named to the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team and was also inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Early Years

Gervin was born April 27, 1952 in Detroit, Michigan. One of six children, he was raised in poverty by his mother.

As a 5-8 sophomore, Gervin could move well but needed some work on his shot. Meanwhile, the shy but likable Gervin had also befriended the school's janitor, a man he knew only as Mr. Winters. Every night Mr. Winters let Gervin shoot hoops in the gym on the condition that he sweep up before he left. "It gave me solitude. I was alone in there for hours. There was nothing but me and my imagination," Gervin said. "I had nothing else to do. In a way, I was really a fortunate kid. I never cared about crime, mischief, dope, or any of that other ghetto stuff. The only thing I cared about was basketball."

Although he improved by leaps and bounds on the court, Gervin struggled in the classroom. Poor grades forced him to miss half the games during his junior year. Having sprouted to 6-4, Gervin finally got it all together for his senior year. He averaged 31 points and 20 rebounds to lead his school to the state quarterfinals.

College Career

Gervin accepted a scholarship to attend Long Beach State and play for Jerry Tarkanian. But being in Southern California gave Gervin such culture shock that he went back to Michigan before his first semester had ended. He enrolled at Eastern Michigan University, where he averaged 29.5 points as a sophomore forward in 1971-72.

Then a momentary loss of control derailed a career that was just getting back on track. While competing in a Division II tournament in Evansville, Indiana, Gervin punched a Roanoke College player named Jay Piccola. Eastern Michigan coach Jim Dutcher resigned. Gervin was suspended for the following season and eventually was kicked off the team. The official reason for the dismissal was Gervin's inadequate performance on an NCAA eligibility exam; Gervin believed otherwise. Invitations to try out for the Olympic and Pan-American teams were withdrawn.

Professional Career

Virginia Squires (1972-74)

With nowhere else to turn, Gervin joined the Eastern Basketball Association, then one of the more successful minor-leagues. He was earning $500 per month and averaging about 40 points for the Pontiac (Michigan) Chaparrals when he got a break. In the crowd one night was Johnny Kerr, a scout with the Virginia Squires of the ABA. Gervin erupted for 50 points. After the game, Gervin had a new job that paid $40,000 a year.

The 1972-73 Squires already featured Julius Erving, second-year forward out of the University of Massachusetts. Gervin joined Virginia at midseason and averaged 14.1 points the rest of the way while Erving (31.9 ppg) won the scoring title.

Squires guard Fatty Taylor took a look at Gervin one day and called him "Iceberg Slim," the nickname of a slender pimp who had just written a best-selling autobiography about his former life on the streets of Chicago. The name eventually evolved into "the Iceman," which referred more to Gervin's on-court composure than to his resemblance to a street hustler.

San Antonio Spurs (1974-85)

During the 1973-74 season, the same day Gervin played in his first ABA All-Star Game, his contract was sold to the San Antonio Spurs, who had just moved from Dallas and were known as the Chaparrals. He scored 23.4 points per game for the season to rank fourth in the league. He remained in the top 10 in scoring and made the All-Star Team in each of the next two years. For 48 minutes, Gervin teamed with childhood buddy Ralph Simpson on the West squad in the 1975 ABA All-Star Game.

When the Spurs joined the NBA in 1976, many observers expected Gervin to be good but not great. To their surprise, Gervin won four scoring titles in five years, earned five selections to the All-NBA First Team and appeared in nine straight NBA All-Star Games.

In 1977-78, only their second year in the league, the Spurs paced the Central Division with a 52-30 record, third best in the league. Coach Doug Moe, who had taken over when the franchise switched leagues, managed to build a winning team despite having only three double-digit scorers. Gervin won his first scoring title with 27.2 ppg.

That year, Gervin needed to score at least 58 points in the season finale on April 9 in order to edge out the Denver Nuggets' David Thompson for the scoring championship. Thompson had pumped in an impressive 73 points earlier in the day to put the pressure on. When Gervin opened the Spurs' game against the New Orleans Jazz with six straight missed shots, he asked his teammates to abandon the chase; they ignored his request and kept feeding him the ball.

Finally heating up, he scored a record 33 points in the second quarter -- re-establishing an NBA record set earlier that evening when Thompson scored 32 in the first quarter -- en route to a 63-point evening. Gervin squeaked by Thompson for the scoring title, 27.22 points per game to 27.15, and he finished runner-up to the Portland Trail Blazers' Bill Walton in NBA MVP balloting.

The following season, Gervin (29.6 ppg) repeated as scoring champion and again finished runner-up in the MVP voting, this time behind Moses Malone of the Houston Rockets. In that 1978-79 season, Gervin came closest to playing in the NBA Finals. After besting the Philadelphia 76ers in a seven-game conference semifinal series, the Spurs blew a 3-1 lead over the Washington Bullets in the Eastern Conference Finals.

With Gervin aboard, San Antonio, after moving to the Western Conference, again reached the conference finals in 1982 and 1983, losing both times to the Los Angeles Lakers. By that time Gervin had been joined by talented forwards Gene Banks and Mike Mitchell and daunting center Artis Gilmore, himself a former ABA superstar. And Johnny Moore was developing into an effective playmaker to complement Gervin's scoring prowess.

The Spurs had gone through several coaches since Doug Moe had left for Denver in 1980, including Bob Bass (for two short stints), Stan Albeck and Morris McHone. The arrival of new head coach Cotton Fitzsimmons in 1984-85 spelled the end of Gervin's 12-year career with the Spurs' organization. The two never hit it off. Fitzsimmons apparently believed that Gervin was weak on defense and that he feared taking the last shot in close games. After reaching the 25,000-point mark for his career, Gervin was traded to the Chicago Bulls in the ensuing offseason for forward David Greenwood. Gervin left the Spurs with 23,602 points and more than 60 team records.

Chicago Bulls (1985-86)

Similarly as he entered the ABA playing along side a second-year future great named Erving, in 1985-86, his last season in the NBA, he joined another second-year future great player. This one was named Michael Jordan. Jordan, however, was limited to 18 games because of a broken foot, and Gervin played a valuable role for Bulls Coach Stan Albeck. The 33-year-old Gervin played in every game and averaged 16.2 points, second on the team to Orlando Woolridge. He retired from the NBA after that season with 20,708 total NBA points and a combined ABA/NBA total of 26,595.

Banco Roma, Italy (1986-87)

Gervin averaged 26.1 points per game in his one season in Italy.

Quad City Thunder (1989-90)

In 1989-90 Gervin attempted a brief comeback with the Quad City Thunder of the CBA, appearing in 14 games and averaging 20.3 points.

TDK Manresa, Spain (1989-90)

At age 38, Gervin averaged 25.5 points, 5 rebounds and 1.2 assists, playing professionally in Spain. In his last game, he scored 31 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to keep Manresa in the first Spanish division.

Post-Playing Career

Gervin worked as a community relations representative for the Spurs until 1992, when John Lucas made him an assistant. After two seasons on the bench, he returned to his position in the community relations department in 1994.

The George Gervin Youth Center in San Antonio was founded in 1991, seeking to impact the lives of troubled youth and their families.

Personal

Gervin met his future wife Joyce while playing basketball at Martin Luther King High School -- she attended an opposing school. When rooting against Gervin, she would implore her team to "not let them throw the ball to that skinny kid."Gervin's son, George Gervin Jr, nicknamed Gee, has played for the Harlem Globetrotters and is one of the best players ever to play in the Swedish League, for Norrköping Dolphins. A brother, Derrick Gervin, played collegiately at University of Texas at San Antonio.