It's not often you get a small meet-and-greet with the Doctor himself, Julius Erving. Even less often when you share a drink while talking about the old days and the new days of NBA basketball.

One of the best aspects of this All-Star Weekend 2014 in New Orleans was to meet a living legend in the annals of NBA History - Julius "The Doctor" Erving, or "Dr. J". I had the fortune to have a quick conversation with the superstar and even got a grainy picture of us together by taking a "selfie" with the Doctor.


Dr. J. is a spokesman for Crown Royal and joined us for a tasting of some of the best whiskeys Crown Royal has to offer. He graciously introduced our "Master of Whiskey" for the evening, then was quick to note that there were two masters in the building as he himself was a "Master of Basketball".

The Doctor first told us how he got his nickname while growing up - his close friend and basketball rival called himself "The Professor" while Julius was "The Doctor". For a long time, only they used those names until Erving was playing in the Rucker League and didn't like the other nicknames people tried to give him. He went with The Doctor from that day forward.


Later, when asked about his favorite dunkers - a seeming 'feeder' question to talk of himself - the Doctor actually went in another direction.

"You know, no one ever mentions Wilt Chamberlain," he said.

He went on to mention other big men such as Moses Malone and, later, Shaquille O'Neal as some excellent dunkers as well who never got the credit.

But Dr. J. himself was a major reason events like the Dunk Contest existed in the first place, with his beautiful high-flying act on the court. A master of basketball indeed.

When asked if he'd ever tried to back out of the Dunk Contest, like modern day superstars do all the time, the Doctor scoffed. He said players today start their career with handlers and advisors before they've proven themselves, and that those advisors tell them to avoid such exhibitions. You didn't get such handlers in the early years of your career back in the 70s and 80s.

The conversation turned to advanced stats, which the Doctor answered in a complex fashion. He first pointed out that it is very difficult to dissect the entire game or player based on recordings and statistics. But then he admitted stats would have been a way to preserve the history of the game in his days and the days before him, because all we have left is grainy footage.

The interview finished with a one-on-one side chat with the Doctor. I asked him what he thought of LeBron James' comment that LBJ himself would make the Mount Rushmore of all-time NBA. Either the Doctor is a really good at shifting the topic or he just didn't know about LeBron's calculation. Erving laughed it off as went on to his next gig, the Sprite All-Star Slam Dunk contest.

My gut feel, based on how the Doctor answered questions all night, is that Erving would not put LeBron into any pantheon as rare as a top-4 all time. At least not right now.

Join Ryan Weisert, Dave Dulberg and Kevin Zimmerman of Valley of the Suns as they discuss the Phoenix Suns’ success and what they’re looking at as the trade deadline nears.

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This is the first of a two-part series that will run over the next couple of days, in which each player on the Phoenix Suns’ active roster will be assigned a grade for his respective performance...

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Watch Phoenix Suns Goran Dragic represent the West with teammate

They have changed many of the formats tonight, but the idea is still the same: showing off some of the best NBA talent in areas they excel.

For the Suns Goran Dragic, that's the overall skills competition. Dragic is one of eight players invited to participate in a skills contest that rewards speed.

Dragic will be paired with OKC second year player Reggie Jackson, who has used Russell Westbrook's injury as a catapult to show his skills to the world. The two will use a relay format to outpace their competition:

  • Team 1: Trey Burke, Utah Damian Lillard, Portland
  • Team 2: Goran Dragic, Phoenix; Reggie Jackson, Oklahoma City

Only Dragic and DeRozan are participants with more than a couple years of NBA experience. Gone are the days when players like Steve Nash would dominate this competition amongst other NBA All-Stars.

2014 Taco Bell Skills Challenge

TWO TEAMS PER CONFERENCE -- Two teams of two players for each conference will compete in a timed obstacle course relay competition consisting of dribbling, passing, & shooting.


> Each conference will field two teams consisting of two players. Each team of two players will run the course, competing in a relay format for a single overall time.

> OPENING LAYUP/DUNK AND FINAL SHOT CHALLENGES - For the opening layup/dunk and the final shot, the player must rebound his own ball until the basket is made*.

> PASSING/SHOOTING CHALLENGES - The passing and the top of the key shooting challenges are considered completed (player can move on) when he either (1) successfully hits the target/makes the shot OR (2) exhausts the corresponding rack of balls while attempting to make the target/basket*.

> BALL HANDLING - Players must observe basic NBA ball-handling rules while completing the course.

> DISQUALIFICATION - Players are subject to disqualification for failure to complete all of the challenges as they are designed and intended to be run through (at the final discretion/judgment of the referee).

> There are no time penalty assessments on the course.

> INSTANT REPLAY -- At the discretion of the referee, television instant replay may be consulted for clarification of rules compliance.

*See Skills Challenge "Flow of Play" document for more information.


> Teams will be timed on a clock starting at 00:00.0 and counting up. The clock will be stopped when the final shot is made by the second player on the team. (Start and Stop is on referee's whistle)


> The two Eastern Conference teams will compete first, followed by the two West teams.

> The East team with the fastest time advances to the Championship Round.

> The West team with the fastest time advances to the Championship Round.


> The fastest East team and fastest West team from the First Round will compete to determine the competition champion.

> The team with the slower First Round time will go first for the Championship Round.

> The team with the fastest Championship Round time will be crowned the Skills Challenge Champions.


> To Advance from First Round - In the event of a tie amongst conference teams to determine the Championship Round participant, the tied teams will repeat the course.

> To Determine Champion - In the case of a tie between the two teams in the Championship Round, the tied teams will repeat the course.

Miles Plumlee received little opportunity in the 2014 Rising Stars Challenge, but in the Friday All-Star event, he did produce an impressive block on the block-meister himself, Anthony Davis. Plumlee...

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