On the surface of Julius “Dr. J” Erving, you may only see his 30,026 career points, his 10,525 rebounds and the countless poster highlights including his famous cradle left reverse layups. But there is a side that many NBA fans knew little about. Each time Erving took the court, he did so with disease on his mind.
At age 19, while a freshman at University of Massachusetts, Erving lost his 16-year-old brother, Marvin, to lupus erythematosus, a systemic autoimmune disease. When he was 34, his older sister, Alexis, passed away of colon cancer at age 37.
Erving won three titles (two ABA, one NBA), four MVP Awards (three ABA, one NBA) and the first recorded slam dunk contest in basketball history. Those moments do not resonate in his mind as much as the sudden deaths of his brother and sister.
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