George Gervin (born April 27, 1952), nicknamed "the Iceman", is an American retired professional basketball player who played in both the American Basketball Association (ABA) and National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Virginia Squires, San Antonio Spurs, and Chicago Bulls. Gervin averaged at least 14 points per game in all 14 of his ABA and NBA seasons, and finished with an NBA career average of 26.2 points per game. In 1996, Gervin was named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History.
Gervin attended Martin Luther King, Jr. High School in Detroit, where he struggled on and off the court until he reached his senior year, when he had a growth spurt and averaged 31 points and 20 rebounds to lead his school to the state quarterfinals. He was a Detroit Free Press All-State selection in 1970.
Gervin received a scholarship to play under Coach Jerry Tarkanian at California State University, Long Beach, but he had such a culture shock that he returned home before the first semester was over. He transferred to Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, Michigan and averaged 29.5 points as a sophomore forward in 1971–72.
While competing in an NCAA College Division national semifinal game in Evansville, Indiana, Gervin punched a Roanoke player. Gervin was suspended for the following season and eventually was removed from the team. Invitations to try out for the Olympic and Pan-American teams were withdrawn.
Gervin initially played for the Pontiac (Michigan) Chaparrals of the Continental Basketball Association, where he was spotted by Johnny Kerr, a Vice President, Basketball Operations for the Virginia Squires of the ABA. Kerr signed Gervin to the Squires for a $40,000 a year contract.
Gervin's time in Virginia would be short-lived, however. The Squires' finances had never been stable, and they had been forced to start trading their best players to get enough money to stay alive. In the space of only four months, they traded Julius Erving and Swen Nater for cash and/or draft picks. During the 1974 ABA All-Star Weekend, rumors abounded that the Squires were in talks about dealing Gervin for cash. The rumors turned out to be true; on January 30, Gervin was sold to the Spurs for $228,000. The ABA tried to block the trade, claiming that by trading their last legitimate star, the Squires were holding a fire sale. However, a court sided with the Spurs. Within two years, the Squires were no more.
San Antonio Spurs
After two seasons in the ABA, Gervin became NBA eligible in time for the 1974 NBA draft. The Phoenix Suns selected Gervin in the third round with the 40th pick, however Gervin elected to stay in the ABA and kept playing for the Spurs. With Gervin as the centerpiece, the Spurs transformed from a primarily defense-oriented team into an exciting fast-breaking team that played what coach Bob Bass called "schoolyard basketball". Although the Spurs never won an ABA playoff series during Gervin's first three years there, their high-powered offense made them very attractive to the NBA (along with their attendance figures in a relatively small media market), and the Spurs joined the more established league as part of the 1976 ABA–NBA merger. Right before the final ABA season, the Spurs had acquired star power forward Larry Kenon via trade, forming an offensively dominant one-two punch of both him and Gervin in order to strengthen their lineup and compete for a championship. That season they were one win away from advancing to the 1976 ABA Finals without competing in the first round, as they had lost 4-3 to the Julius Erving-led New York Nets, who would win the championship.
Gervin's first NBA scoring crown came in the 1977–78 season, when he narrowly edged David Thompson for the scoring title by seven hundredths of a point (27.22 to 27.15). Although Thompson came up with a memorable performance for the last game of the regular season, scoring 73 points, Gervin maintained his slight lead by scoring 63 points (including a then NBA record 33 points in the second quarter) in a loss during the last game of the regular season. With the scoring crown in hand, he sat out some of the third, and all of the fourth quarter. In the 1978–79 NBA season, the Spurs finished 48-34 with the second seed in the Eastern Conference (currently a Western Conference team), they had made it past Julius Erving and the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round, beating them in seven games as Gervin led the league in playoff scoring with 28.6 ppg. They were one win away from making it to the 1979 NBA Finals as they were up 3-1 against the Washington Bullets in the Conference Finals but collapsed by losing three straight to lose the series. Kenon would become a free agent and sign with the Bulls after the following season.
Despite disappointing playoff eliminations and not making it to the finals, Gervin was committed to the Spurs, showing no frustration towards his teammates, thus living up to his nickname and went on to lead the NBA in scoring average three years in a row from 1978 to 1980 (with a high of 33.1 points per game in 1979–80), and again in 1982. Prior to Michael Jordan, Gervin had the most scoring titles of any guard in league history. In 1981, while sitting out three games due to injury, Gervin's replacement, Ron Brewer, averaged over 30 ppg. When Gervin returned, he scored 40+ points. When asked if he was sending a message, Gervin said, "Just the way the Lord planned it" and added, "Ice be cool" (with Ron Brewer). In the 1981–82 season, the Spurs would once again compete for a championship, by then the Spurs had just become a Western Conference franchise, finishing second in the conference with a 48-34 record. Gervin carried the team in scoring by leading the league with 29.4 ppg, they had made it back to the Conference Finals but got swept by the number one seeded Los Angeles Lakers who would end up winning the championship that year. In the 1982 offseason, the Spurs drafted high scoring guards Oliver Robinson of UAB and Tony Grier from South Florida and also traded for all-star center Artis Gilmore to take some offensive pressure off Gervin. This time with the addition of Gilmore and some fresh young talent, the Spurs were once again a title contender in the 1982–83 season, finishing 53-29 with the number two seed in the Western Conference, making it back to the Conference Finals once again with Gervin leading the way, averaging 25.2 ppg, only to be defeated yet again by the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers in six games.
Right before the 1985–86 season, Gervin was traded to the Chicago Bulls for forward David Greenwood after missing multiple preseason workouts amid the possibility of being relegated to the bench by new head coach, Cotton Fitzsimmons. The Bulls' rising star Michael Jordan stated he was "unhappy" after the trade. This season would be Gervin's last season in the NBA before retiring from the league. Although by this time he was aging and no longer at an all-star level, Gervin was still effective on the Bulls roster, averaging 16.2 ppg, had another 40-point game performance (a season-high 45 points against the Dallas Mavericks) and played all 82 games. The Bulls finished 30-52 but it was enough for a playoff berth clinching the number 8 seed in the Eastern Conference. The last NBA game of Gervin's career was April 20, 1986, Jordan's remarkable 63 point game against the Boston Celtics in game 2 of the first round. Gervin recorded an assist and a personal foul in five minutes of play and the Bulls would later get swept by the Celtics in the first round.
When he left the NBA, Gervin played for several years in Europe: in Italy for Banco Roma during the 1986–87 season where he averaged 26.1 points per game, and in the Spanish National Basketball League for TDK Manresa team (he was 38 years old at the time). At this point in his career he had lost some of his quickness, but his scoring instinct remained; he averaged 25.5 points, 5 rebounds and 1.2 assists, and in his last match he scored 31 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to keep Manresa in the first Spanish division. In between his years of playing in Europe, Gervin also played for the Quad City Thunder of the now defunct Continental Basketball Association.
Nicknamed "Iceman" for his cool demeanor on the court, Gervin was primarily known for his scoring talents. He had also received the nickname because of his rare ability to play the game of basketball at a high level without sweating.
Gervin's trademark move was the finger roll, a shot in which one rolls the basketball along his or her fingertips. While others mimicked this style when shooting layups, Gervin was known to "finger roll" from as far as the free throw line.
Gervin's legacy has inspired other athletes. Basketball great Gary Payton has stated his childhood idol was Gervin and that he was his favorite player to watch. Gervin was also idolized by former NFL and Heisman-winning quarterback Ty Detmer. Detmer records in his autobiography that he was elated to receive Gervin's autograph one day as a youth in San Antonio.
Awards and records
Gervin was inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996; additionally his #44 jersey has been retired by the Spurs and he was named as one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. In 2009, Gervin was ranked #45 on SLAM Magazine's Top 50 NBA Players of All Time.
He remains active in the San Antonio community with his seven organizations designed specifically for underprivileged kids, including the George Gervin Youth Center. Gervin is beloved in San Antonio and believes that his own experience as an underprivileged child in Michigan inspired him to get involved.
At the time of his trade to the Bulls, he held nearly every significant scoring record in Spurs history. Many of his records have been surpassed by David Robinson and Tim Duncan. Gervin retired with the most blocks by any guard in NBA history.
Though a revered NBA and ABA All-Star and Hall of Famer, Gervin never made an appearance with a team in either an NBA or ABA championship series during his 13-year career in American professional basketball.
Life after basketball
Since retiring from professional basketball, George Gervin has been active in the San Antonio community by designing organizations for underprivileged children. In 1991, he had opened up the George Gervin Youth Center.
In 1976, Gervin married Joyce King. The couple divorced in 1984 then remarried in 1985. They also have three children. The eldest child named George Gervin, Jr. (nicknamed "Gee"), played for the Harlem Globetrotters and was a fan favorite while playing for the Norrköping Dolphins of the Swedish League. Gervin, Jr. also played professionally in Mexico. Gervin's sister, Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, is a Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives. Gervin's younger brother, Derrick is a retired basketball player who mostly played in the CBA and Europe.
|GP||Games played||GS||Games started||MPG||Minutes per game|
|FG%||Field goal percentage||3P%||3-point field goal percentage||FT%||Free throw percentage|
|RPG||Rebounds per game||APG||Assists per game||SPG||Steals per game|
|BPG||Blocks per game||PPG||Points per game||Bold||Career high|
|*||Led the league|
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