George Gervin

George Gervin was on the NBA's 50th Anniversary All-Time Team (1996) and the ABA's All-Time Team, and his No. 44 is retired by the San Antonio Spurs. In 14 NBA and ABA seasons, he averaged 25.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists, made nine All-Star teams, was named to five All-NBA First Teams and claimed four NBA scoring titles. The Iceman also enjoyed interacting with the media during his career -- and still does. I was the final reporter to speak with Gervin in a day that the 64-year-old did roughly six hours of interviews, and he was more than ready to riff for another good 30 minutes. Hanging in the NBA's New York office, where Gervin was promoting NBA All-Star Game voting, we discussed his one year playing with Michael Jordan, Bill Russell's role in the ABA-NBA merger, Tim Duncan's fashion, his beef with Pat Riley and why every NBA star should create a foundation.

Gervin played his final NBA season in 1985-86 with the Chicago Bulls. Jordan, in his second NBA season, missed 64 games with a broken foot, but still had an impact on "The Iceman."

ThePostGame: When you went to Chicago for that one year with Jordan -- his second year -- did you think you might be a piece Jordan and the Bulls needed to compete for a title?
GEORGE GERVIN: No. He was too young. He was just finding himself. Then he got hurt and I took his spot, so I gave him a chance to show him some history. He was just enjoying it in his own way. I remember I had 35 at Dallas and I ended up with 45. He came up to me and said, "What happened old man, you get tired?" I'll never forget that. I said, "Young fella, I was just showing you how I used to be." Think about it, I started my career with Dr. J and finished with Mike. I got a chance to see greatness on both ends and I wasn't that bad myself.

TPG: He got hurt three games into that season.
GERVIN: Broken foot.

TPG: How did he look at you? Did he study you every night?
GERVIN: No, we weren't that close. Mike's different. He did what he wanted to do. He didn't need no help. I know he had to learn something from me because I wasn't no slouch. I could play and I could play for a long time, whether he said it or not. You're sitting there and you're looking at greatness. You're gonna have to see something. I ain't saying he emulated me, but I could flat out put the ball in the hole. I ain't saying he did learn something from me. You'd have to ask him. I ain't taking no credit for his success. He's definitely one of the best to ever do it. Everybody says he's the greatest of all time, but I'm not convinced. What criteria are you using to say that? It's easy to say that on ESPN. Stephen A. Smith: "Greatest of all time." What do you mean? He got more championships than Bill Russell? He's got more points than Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? What criteria are you using? He's one of the greatest entertainers? Hell yeah. But what about Magic Johnson? Magic Johnson's one of the greatest entertainers of all time. And winners. I'm not taking nothing from no one. But a lot of times today, people just throw out greatest of all time. To be the greatest of all time, you got to be really really special, man. He is. But we had some special guys before him too. This is from a ballplayer. I'm not just a guy coming in from the street or who played college ball or a guy who just wears his shoes. I do wear his shoes. I got a closet full of Mike's shoes. They're a conversation piece and they're comfortable. And I play in his golf shoes. I'm a Michael Jordan fan. Bar none. Whether he knows it or not, I'm a Michael Jordan fan. I'm just proud of how he was able to manipulate this system to be where he is today. That's kind of like how I feel about that.

TPG: So to round all that up, if someone asked you who the greatest player of all time is, who would you say?
GERVIN: I'd say, hey now, what criteria are using? That's the only thing I can say. He's one of the greatest entertainers, one of the greatest winners, he could flat out play, his stats proved themselves, but he couldn't score like Ice. He had his own way of scoring. He didn't score like me. I didn't score as many points as he did, but I didn't shoot as much as he did. Mike and Kobe shot more times than anyone in the history of basketball. So that means they missed a lot. He shot 50 percent though (49.7 percent, technically). That kind of makes up for it. At guard. That makes a guy special.

TPG: What if you shot more?
GERVIN: I wouldn't. That wasn't my game. My game, I could shoot whenever I wanted to, so I didn't shoot any bad shots. We're different. I didn't think I had the same drive as him. He had a drive. I ain't talking about driving to the basket. He had a drive that could take you over. I wouldn't get caught up into it like that.

TPG: Did you notice that at your first practice with him?
GERVIN: Hell yeah. The son of a bitch is crazy. He played just as hard at practice as he did in the game. I'll never forget it, I'm at practice with him one time, I'm lackadaisical going through it and stuff. I say, "Dang, young fella." He said, "Hey, old man, go sit down over there." I sat down. I was done. He helped me understand I was done. You've only got so long to be on top. I was on top for about 12 years. You only have your turn. My turn was pretty much up. I retired after that.

TPG: Did you think about coming back with the Bulls?
GERVIN: Hell no. I ain't think about playing no one. I went overseas. One game a week, 5 p.m. on Sundays, 30 games in 30 weeks. I loved it. Got a nice check, lived in Italy. Went over there 190, came back 240. Food was good, kid was in school, wife was happy. Come on, man. I had my turn. You only have your turn. When you understand it, you walk away from it. Tim Duncan had his turn, walked away. Everybody can't walk. Mike couldn't walk away from it. That's something to say about that drive. He just couldn't stop.

TPG: But he walked away two times ...
GERVIN: But one time he had to walk, so there ain't no walking away (laughs). Hold up for a minute. Kobe, to be half yourself, as great as you were, that's what I'm talking about with that drive. See, it's still part of the game. When that drive becomes part of life, that's what you've got to worry about.

TPG: I'd be remiss not to ask. You said [Jordan] was forced out one time ...
GERVIN: Well, I don't know how. I don’t know enough about it. But he went and played baseball. Why? I don't know. But he wasn't a really good baseball player. But he was a great basketball player.

TPG: When you left the Bulls, you think he was happy?
GERVIN: That I was gone? Hell yeah. I didn't belong there. I should have never went. I knew it. They got a shell of me down there. I had some great games. I still averaged about 16. Shot about 87 percent from the free throw line. I could still play. But I was half a man. I'm being honest. It was at the end. Being at the end, it was how you accept it. None of us can last forever. Some of us try. Some of us just hate to give it up. Some of the greats.

TPG: You think Kobe had trouble walking away?
GERVIN: Hell yeah. Then he gets 60 the last game. But think about this. Those guys were going, "Phew, done with him." He's one of the greatest of all time, but his drive, man, it still comes down to his drive as a human being. It can affect you.

In 1985, Gervin played in his final All-Star Game in Indianapolis. His 23 points were the second-highest total for the Western Conference, which won the game, but most fans remember that night for the alleged Eastern Conference "freeze-out" of Michael Jordan, organized by Isiah Thomas. Gervin spent much of the game guarding Jordan and he thought Jordan got the ball a fair amount.

TPG: You were in the '85 freeze-out game.
GERVIN: That's what they say? With Michael? But I was guarding Michael.

TPG: 'Cause you were in the West by then (the Spurs moved to the Western Conference in 1980-81).
GERVIN: I'm glad you said that. 'Cause I went to Chicago that next year. I had a room full of media like, "We heard about that game last year with Isiah." I said, "What?" "Y'all was freezing Michael out." I said, "How could I freeze him out when I was guarding him?"

I was trying to wear him out. He was a rookie. We were in the locker room. I'll never forget, before the game. All the press came in front of me and they said, "How's it gonna be playing against Michael?" I said, "You talking to the wrong guy." I said, "You better go over and ask Mike how it's gonna be playing against Ice." They got up and went over and told Mike. I meant it from my heart. You kidding me, man? You talking to Ice. You better go over there and ask that rookie how it's like playing against Ice. I like having fun with media.

I think I could have got MVP that game. Pat Riley took me out. Pat Riley did me like that twice. I hope Pat hears it too. You dogged me twice.

TPG: You ever say that to him.
GERVIN: Every time I see him. You know you dogged me man. No hard feelings, but you did dog me. In another All-Star Game, he was the coach. He didn't play me and I was going off and he sat me down the whole fourth quarter. We played the Lakers in LA the next game. He talks about that. I probably had like 40 on him. I was mad at him. Take that, Pat. Ice is probably mad at me. You know why. Everybody's got their favorites, man.

TPG: In that 1985 game, while you were guarding him, did you feel Jordan didn't get the ball that much?
GERVIN: I thought he got it quite a bit. The kind of player he is, he commands the ball, not demands it. Just the way he plays. He was just a rookie. They ain't laying out no red carpet for him. He's got to earn his way. That's how we felt, the veterans. He was getting a lot of props then. We were saying wait a minute, this is the All-Star Game. You got to earn your way. I had 23.

TPG: Was he guarding you?
GERVIN: Sometimes, and I was guarding him. See, Mike back then ... I'm a student of the game ... Mike couldn't go left. I'd just get on the right side and make him go that way. He was dominant right. Until he made that adjustment in the career, he didn't take off. Once he made that adjustment he could go both ways and get by you, lights out. That's what he did when I joined him. I think he wanted to kill me (Jordan had seven points in that All-Star Game).

He was unbelievable, man.

TPG: Unbelievable to watch or be around?
GERVIN: Be around, just seeing. I remember I had a Porsche 928 and he came up with some other fast car. I said, "You can't beat me in this thing." He said, "Yeah, OK, Ice." I had fun with him and got nothing but respect for him. If you talk with him, tell him to send me some more shoes.

Me an Otis Birdsong

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Gervin starred his pro career with the Virginia Squires of the ABA, teaming with fellow rising star Julius Erving. Gervin and Erving were eventually traded to the Spurs and Nets, respectively, and came into the NBA after the 1976 merger.

TPG: How did you and Julius Erving not win an ABA title?
GERVIN: We didn't have enough. Me and him obviously had an impact, but you still got to have other pieces. It's like Jordan. Michael didn't start winning until he started filling in pieces. Rodman, Pippen, Paxson, Kerr, they all played a role. But we still were a threat.

TPG: What was Julius like at that time?
GERVIN: Great. He was my man. He played hard all the time. He was Mr. ABA Basketball back in those days. Me and him used to play one-on-one after practice all the time because I was his rookie. He helped build up my confidence and self-esteem to make me feel like I belonged.

TPG: Who won most of those games?
GERVIN: He did ... early on (laughs).

TPG: You go from Virginia to the San Antonio, the Spurs go to the NBA. Did you feel you were ready for that transition? Did it feel like a sideways jump?
GERVIN: Oh, we were ready. It was the best thing that could happen to us when we made that merger. The NBA needed a shock. I think the ABA merger really helped the foundation. They always say Magic and Bird saved them. I think the ABA did. It gave them the youth, talent. We merged in '76. We had a chance to win it in '78 against the Bullets. We belonged. For us, being ABA players, we knew we had something to prove. Playing against NBA guys, we played hard every night. If you look at the next year's All-Star Game for the NBA, and see how many ABA guys were in there, it would probably shock you. We belonged there, man. It was two leagues that needed to come together.

Bill Russell was a big advocate of the ABA guys. Bill Russell would scrimmage us, ABA teams vs. NBA teams. He'd talk about it all the time. He'd say man, George, I remember coming down to San Antonio and I was asking some of the guys, who do we got to worry about in San Antonio and they'd say nobody. Man, then Gervin would have 50. That's how Bill Russell would talk. I wouldn't have 50, but that's how Russell would talk. He was a big advocate for ABA guys to get more jobs.

(Russell coached the Seattle SuperSonics from 1973-1977).

TPG: Do you remember meeting Bill Russell?
GERVIN: Oh, yeah. Never forget it. It was Bill Russell. I was in San Antonio, so I was a third-year guy. To show him the type of guy I was, I was motivated.

TPG: Do you think Bill should get some credit for the merger?
GERVIN: Oh, heck yeah. He was a big advocate for it. The real guy with Boston, Red Auerbach, wasn't really convinced, but Bill was a big advocate, and Bill loved Auerbach.

TPG: What do people not know about your late-70s/early-80s Spurs teams that competed for NBA titles?
GERVIN: It's technology. It wasn't there. We had tape-delay playoff games. We'd go home and watch it ourselves. The league wasn't there yet. So if that's the case, we were missed. ESPN wasn't there. When ESPN came, I was on my way out. You lose a lot of familiarity with players. We played CBS games. CBS games came on maybe once a week. A lot of guys I played with – great guys – just missed. I'm talking Roger Brown, George McGinnis, had a little time to play in the NBA, but there were so many great ABA guys they don't even talk about anymore. For me, it's a shame because I played against a lot of them and they're just as good as anyone else playing today. The game has grown so much. We have so many European players playing today.

See how many of these ABA guys you can Name

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Avid golfer Gervin is not a fan of fellow Spurs legend Tim Duncan's style.

TPG: Do you play golf with any former players?
GERVIN: Not really.

TPG: You don't play with Tim Duncan now?
GERVIN: No. Tim can't hit a ball to save his life. You say hit a ball to save your life, he's dead. But he could swim. I can't swim. I can't swim like him. He can't play golf like me.

TPG: Did you know he was going to retire or did you find out like everyone else?
GERVIN: No, he didn't tell me. But I knew he was. You got an orange. You squeeze it. There's only so much juice in that son of a gun. Knees bad, had nothing to prove, he won five NBA championships, he played 19 years, he's got two little kids. Come on, man. It's a game.

TPG: Best fashion in the game.
GERVIN: Oh, it's awful. He's a Caribbean guy. I'm a city guy. I get sharp. I wear suits and ties and hats and drive Cadillacs.

TPG: Motown.
GERVIN: That's right. I'm Motown. He's Caribbean. Shorts, he wears beach clothes. You can't ask him to change. You got to go with it. Ain't none of the other guys like that. If the commissioner made them all wear coats, they'd all be wearing little-bitty coats that don't match. I'd be saying, "Uh, you guys need a personal dresser?" I can help cause I love to dress up. I wear gator boots.

Two of the Greatest

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Gervin, who has a foundation and two charter schools, believes NBA players need to get more involved with charity.

TPG: Do the kids of San Antonio recognize you?
GERVIN: Hell yeah. I got a charter school. Had one 21 years. Got a charter school in Phoenix too. So I'm about education. I'm in the community. I've graduated over 1,000 kids. They appreciate me because I'm able to have an impact.

TPG: How active are you with those schools?
GERVIN: I have an office there. My baby sister is my superintendent. She's the one who helped build it for me. It was my idea. I'm the brand, she's the brains.

I'm big into that. That's why I was glad to see LeBron James back home. LeBron does some pretty wonderful things in the community. That's what it's all about. That's the kind of true impact we can have being who we are. If more of us do that, we can have more of our kids pulling up their pants. It's still only a game. Life begins when it's over.

TPG: How many of the superstars today realize that other than LeBron?
GERVIN: I don't know, man. LeBron is the one who's more visible. I don't know. They don't know how big my program's been all these years. It's something good. Good don't sell.

A lot of bad stuff happens. They get top ratings. A lot of lives and stuff are being saved, but we don't hear about.

I tell them all the time. You're making a lot of money and there's a certain amount going toward the IRS no matter what. The only way you can prevent that from going to the IRS is if you start a 501(c)(3). You start a foundation. And you start putting that money in the community. I don't know how many guys know that.

TPG: It seems simple.
GERVIN: The way I say it makes it seem simple. But how come people don't know that? The IRS, they rob money and make more. You can create an avenue. Monuments last forever, people die.

I believe in Education

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And lastly, Gervin is happy to get the players and media involved in All-Star Game voting, but emphasizes the fan is the most valuable resource to the NBA.

TPG: The big news is it's not all fan voting this year. How do you feel about that?
GERVIN: I love it. Any time you can get the guys -- the players -- to be part of it, it's like to me, it's everything. These are guys that run up against each other every game. Then you got the media involved. I still like the fan base because it's their game, so their participation is big. We got some guys that's running pretty big in the voting, so it's good. I won the top vote before, so I know I'm a product of the system. I know it works.

TPG: When you were a player, how much were you able to watch other teams?
GERVIN: Not much. No, I wasn't a big fan like that. You get a chance to play a lot of them. I'm a product of the ABA, so before I got out of that league, there were only five or six teams, so we'd play each other 15 or 16 times a year.

TPG: Did you vote for Zaza?
GERVIN: Yeah, I did. (Laughs)

TPG: I can't tell if you're being serious or not.
GERVIN: (More laughs) But 500,000 did. To me, that's good. Is Zaza gonna be there at the end? I don't think so. But how the system is, they get a chance, and probably a lot of people from Georgia voted for him. How does that affect us as a league? That's great. That's global attention. But people don't think that way. To me, that's great. Let the fans have a say.

TPG: What was your favorite All-Star Game?
GERVIN: 1980. That's when I really took it seriously and won the MVP. I said I'm gonna go out there today and kill these guys. I did. I wish I had said that all the other times and played like Kobe and Russell Westbrook. You think Westbrook ain't gonna try to be MVP?

TPG: He's been MVP the last two games.
GERVIN: People love him. Westbrook is gonna come get you again. Play laid back if you want him, Westbrook will have 25 at half. I love him.

Fans can contribute the the NBA All-Star vote here.

-- Follow Jeff Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband. Like Jeff Eisenband on Facebook.