Q&A with Basketball Hall of Famer George Gervin

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Q&A with Basketball Hall of Famer George Gervin

Postby rlee » Sun Oct 12, 2008 3:08 am

Q&A with Basketball Hall of Famer George Gervin

Sean Deveney

As a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and the NBA's 50 Greatest Players list, George Gervin never worried much about his health. But recently, Gervin was shocked to find out that his blood pressure was dangerously high. Since then, he has taken up exercising and eating right, and is raising awareness about blood pressure screening -- he will appear at the HEB Health Expo in San Antonio this weekend. Sporting News' Sean Deveney caught up with Gervin to talk about his health, his nickname and, of course, his finger roll.

Sporting News: What made you get yourself checked out by a doctor in the first place?

George Gervin: A few months ago, my wife was in my ear to go to the doctor and get a checkup. I didn't want to go. Just human nature, no one wants to go to the doctor because the doctor will just tell you what's wrong. But the doctor sat me down and said, "George, listen, you have high blood pressure. You have to do something about this." I said, "No way." I did not think I could be walking around with something like this.

SN: You did not want to believe him?

GG: He did my blood pressure on my left arm. I said, "Here, try my right arm!" But, I could have died if I had not done something. Not enough people understand, you can be walking around with high blood pressure and have no idea. There are 73 million Americans with high blood pressure, and a lot of them have no idea.

SN: You've been spreading the word about getting it checked. You have the event this weekend. How is it going, in general?

GG: I want to help the people who are like me, who didn't know much about high blood pressure at all. For me, I don't care if I only get one person to check their blood pressure. It's getting to where, everybody who comes to my house, I want to check them out personally. My brother-in-law was over the other day, and I put the cuff on him. He was 200 over 113. I said, "Man, you are about to burst! Go to the doctor, now!" People have to know. It is a silent killer.

SN: One of the things you have to do now is exercise. Does that include basketball?

GG: A little. Not that much, though. I am mostly on the elliptical machine; that is a full-body workout. I am getting closer to my goal, I want to be able to run 30 minutes straight without stopping. Almost there. But basketball, I don't play too much. I have a 10-year-old grandson who thinks he can outshoot Grandpa. So, I have to take him out and show him he has a long way to go before he outshoots Grandpa. I can still shoot it.

SN: At the end of your career, you spent some time shooting it in Italy; you signed a contract in Europe. I wonder, what's your reaction to a player like Josh Childress going overseas instead of playing in the NBA?

GG: I think it is wonderful. I think, seeing the game go global the way it has, has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game to me now. There are, what, 75 international players in the NBA now? I love that. And if some of their owners are going to start giving big money to our players, I think that is great. More opportunities for players. I don't know Josh, but he seems like a bright young man. For me, playing in Europe gave me a whole new perspective on life, because you really learn another culture. It opens your mind. I am sure he will find that out.

SN: You work for the Spurs, you still follow the NBA. Who in the NBA has a decent finger roll?

GG: No one! Really. Maybe Manu Ginobili, but he's not really doing a finger roll out there. I get mad sometimes because I hear announcers saying this guy made a finger roll. And I say, "That's not a finger roll. You want a finger roll? Come see the Iceman." I used to finger roll from the dotted line, or if I got cocky, I'd finger roll from the free throw line. You don't see that anymore. To be fair, Julius (Erving) had a finger roll before me. Connie Hawkins had one. Wilt (Chamberlain) had his, too.

SN: But no one was known for it quite like you.

GG: That is because I was smart. I saw all three of those guys; I watched them all finger roll. Each one was a little different, you know? So, I took a little from each guy. When we got together for the 50 greatest players, I was sitting at a table with Wilt and Connie and Julius, and Julius started in on me saying, "Now, I was doing the finger roll before you." And Connie said, "No, I was doing it before both of you." And Wilt said, "No, no, no, it was my move." I said to all of them, "Hey guys, mine was the best because I stole a little from each of you." They laughed at that.

SN: Everyone knows you as the Iceman. How'd that name come about?

GG: In the ABA, my teammate, Fatty Taylor, started it. I was from Detroit, so I had a lot of that Detroit flair -- big long trench coat, big wide hat. And I was in great shape; I never sweated. If you saw me in a game, or you saw me in a practice, no matter how hard I was going, I was not sweating. So Fatty started calling me Iceberg Slim. I said, "Iceberg Slim is a pimp! I ain't no pimp!" It became Iceman. I didn't want to be named after a pimp.

SN: I think back to Magic Johnson, Dr. J, the Iceman. How come no one has good nicknames anymore?

GG: I'll tell you why: Because we took them all.
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Postby rlee » Thu May 27, 2010 3:13 am

George Gervin: 'Everyone Can Dunk, But Not Many People Can Finger Roll'

Posted By The Baseline
In 14 seasons in the ABA and NBA, George Gervin established himself as one of the most prolific scorers the game ever knew. He was a four-time scoring champ, wound up with a career average of 25.1 points per game and remains one of only 10 NBA players ever to average more than 33 points in a season.

Over the past 15 years, though, Gervin has concentrated his efforts on helping the children of San Antonio through the George Gervin Community Center, and is currently conducting a campaign—which includes a new collectible figurine—to raise money for the center. Sporting News' Sean Deveney spoke with Gervin about the center, his nickname and his signature shot, the finger roll.

Sporting News: There is a new figurine of you that is out, part of a fundraiser for your foundation. It’s actually a pretty good-looking item. How did that come about?

George Gervin: It’s made by BPI Productions, you can check it out at BPIfanconnect.com. It’s all for charity, my foundation is in the process of a capital campaign, and this is something we’re hoping will help us out with that.

SN: You’ve had your foundation for a while now, and it is mostly programs related to kids, right? What are some of the things you do through the programs?

GG: Oh, man, we try to do as much as we can. We have a charter school here in San Antonio, it goes all the way from K-through-12, and it is something we are hoping will keep growing. We are building a wellness center for kids because, in this part of the country, childhood obesity is a real problem, and we need to find ways to start fixing it by teaching these kids about exercise and nutrition.

SN: You personally grew up in tough circumstances. Does that sort of inspire you to get involved in these kinds of things?

GG: Absolutely. I was the product of a single-family home, four boys and two girls, in Detroit. My mother worked hard to make sure we had what we needed, but that also meant she wasn’t always around. So we had to take advantage of programs like these. I consider myself a product of programs like this.

SN: How did basketball fit into that?

GG: I started up with basketball in a church league when I was 13. I started late. I had two older brothers and all they did was play basketball, so, being a younger brother, of course, I wanted to do what they did. That’s how I started, church leagues, rec leagues, things like that. But basketball kept me going to school, it kept me engaged in school. It helped my education, and we need to let our babies know how important that is. I always tell young people, you can do your 1-to-12 in school as a kid, or you can do your 1-to-12 in jail later in life, your choice.

SN: You wound up leaving college early, and going to the ABA early on. How did that impact you?

GG: I was 19, I was young and didn’t know much. I loved college. But being in the pros, that was a lesson for me early on in my life. I had to grow up fast. I was fortunate to have the talent to make it, but a lot of kids, they don’t make it. Kids have to recognize there aren’t going to be many George Gervins, so you need to have a Plan B and a Plan C.

SN: When you got to the ABA, you were given the nickname “Iceman,” and for a lot of fans, that’s how they will always know you. How did that name come about?

GG: It was Fatty Taylor, my teammate. I was young and skinny, and at that time, I was from Detroit—I liked to wear the big coats and hats and all that. So Fatty Taylor took one look at me and he started calling me Iceberg Slim, who was a guy, a pimp, who had written a book and had become sort of famous. After a while, I said, “Fatty, man, you can’t call me that, I am not a pimp!” So it became Iceman.

SN: In the figurine image of you, you are, of course, in the midst of your signature move, the finger roll. How did that shot become so closely identified with you?

GG: I didn’t invent it. I had seen others do it, like Wilt (Chamberlain) and Julius (Erving). When I first started, I was a dunker. But I broke my wrist during a game once trying to block a shot, by Julius in fact. I fell and landed on my wrist, so once it got better, I couldn’t dunk. So, I finger-rolled.

SN: Why don’t players now do it?

GG: Because not everyone can do it. That is why, in the end, I liked it so much more than dunking. Everyone can dunk, but not many people can finger roll.

SN: You are still a big NBA fan, of course. What have you seen in these conference finals?

GG: I have been impressed by Phoenix. I know everyone was writing them off after the first two games in Los Angeles, but I had a feeling that, once they got back home, they would get themselves right. They’re a good team, they are a very deep team and I don’t think the Lakers were prepared for how much better they’d play at home. They showed them—“If y’all aren’t prepared, we are going to beat y’all.”

SN: You played well into your 30s, so you know it gets tougher the older you get. Have the Celtics surprised you in that regard?

GG: I am not surprised, no. Because they have good leadership, starting with Doc Rivers, who is an excellent coach. But you have guys like Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce who, when they speak, the guys in the locker room listen. That’s like the old Boston Celtics. That’s like Bill Russell and Sam Jones Celtics, or Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Dennis Johnson Celtics. They sacrifice their own game for the team. Age has nothing to do with it, not when you have a will to win like those guys have.
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Postby rlee » Tue Jun 01, 2010 8:00 pm

Interview @ 48minutesofhell.com

First and foremost, I want to ask you about your youth center and the promotional campaign you’re having right now. Can you tell me about that?

Yeah, the George Gervin Youth Center now is expanding so we’ve got a capital campaign going on. BPI Promotions is a company here in San Antonio that knows about my George Gervin Youth Center and all the programs I have. [Alix Babaie, the founder of BPI] came up with an idea and said, “Ice, let’s do a figurine of you in an ABA uniform with an ABA ball, since we’re a former ABA franchise, and we’ll sponsor them, and we’ll sell them and help you raise some money for your capital campaign.”

I was flabbergasted really. He said, “George you’re doing some great stuff in this community, I see you’re expanding.” I have a charter school where I have 820-some kids. We’re chartered for 2500 kids, so I can expand. So we’re expanding. We’re in the process of building a wellness center. My wellness center is going to be nine more classrooms, so we can get another 200 and something kids, and we’re also going to build 3 basketball courts.

That sounds great. I know everyone in San Antonio really appreciates the work you do in the community. As a fan of the franchise, it’s always been a point of pride that former Spurs make such an impact on the town.

Well, we got a beautiful supporting cast, a fan base here in San Antonio.

So I wanted to ask, a moment that is just mythic, that I couldn’t talk to you without asking about. Back in 1978, it was the last game of the season, and you scored 63 points to win the NBA scoring title, narrowly defeating David Thompson. What was going through your mind at that time? Did you know that he had a huge game as well? Did you know the points you had to get to in order to win the scoring title or were you just playing out there?

As a matter of fact, he played in the afternoon on a Sunday, so he had a chance to play before me. I played in the evening. After he scored 73 points, the press called me and told me that David scored 73 points and he just moved ahead of you for the scoring title. So that’s how I knew.

Were you gunning for it or were you just playing your game?

What happened is, my coach and my teammates also knew what happened. And they got together, and Coach Doug Moe he asked the team. He said, “We want to give Ice a shot at regaining the scoring title,” which was incredible to me. But that’s the kind of coach Doug Moe was. He was my favorite coach. He and my teammates gave me an opportunity to try to get the scoring title back. They said, “OK, when we get on the floor, we want Ice to get the ball every time down the floor.”

That’s wild.

Ya, man. That’s unheard of, man, in today’s basketball, because we were already in the playoffs. We already knew who we were going to play. So you know, last game of the season. In today’s basketball, coaches don’t let their guys play. They let their guys rest and get ready for the playoffs. To me, that’s crazy. Back when we were playing, we played all the way out, all 82 games trying to win.

What are the real differences between the league when you guys played in it and they way they’re playing the game nowadays? Tactically, is there some stuff they do that you guys didn’t used to do or some things you might consider a lost art?

Well, the game has changed quite a bit. When I played– how you guard somebody –you could put your hands on them. You could stop their forward progress. It was a little bit more physical.

Do you think you should still be able to hand-check or do you like the fact that they changed the rule?

Ain’t nothing wrong with hand-checking. It’s hard to guard somebody if you can’t put your hands on them. You know what I’m saying? He can go anywhere he wants go. If you hand-check him a little bit, you can make him use skills.

Speaking of skills, one of you’re most famous shots was the finger roll. It’s your trademark shot. I was wondering, when did you start using that? Was it back when you were in college? With the Squires? With the Spurs?

I want to say back in college. Because back in college they took the dunk rule out. It might have been in high school when they had that rule. Really, I perfected it in the pros, because I watched Julius Erving. He had his own version of the finger roll. I watched Wilt Chamberlain, he had his own version of the finger roll. And Connie Hawkins. I watched those three greats use that move, and I kind of copied them. And I’m the one who became famous for it.

One of my favorite artifacts from that old NBA era is that video of you and “Pistol” Pete Maravich playing HORSE at the All-Star Game. I love that video. I had to ask, people complain about the All-Star game, they say it isn’t exciting enough. Do you have any ideas about how they could jazz it up? You were an All-Star nine times, you know your way around the All-Star game.

I like the All-Star game. It’s a big celebration. I always want the guys to compete harder, really make it a competition. A lot of the guys, they don’t play any defense, they let all the guys shoot and dunk. They think dunking is exciting. To me what is exciting is team play, defensive plays. I don’t have anything against the All-Star game, I still think it’s great event. I would like to see the legends game come back, but I’m quite sure that wouldn’t happen. To really get a chance to let today’s fans see the pros of old. Overall though, the league is in great shape and we still see some great talent in the NBA.

How do you think the Spurs did this year? How did you think the season turned and how are you feeling about how the team’s looking in future seasons? What do you think of the young players, George Hill and DeJuan Blair?

I still think the franchise is solid. I still think we got some quality players. We got some young guys who show great potential in George Hill and DeJuan Blair. They’ve really shown they are going to be a part of the San Antonio Spurs for years to come. I think Tim Duncan still has two or three years, if he wants to, to really compete. We just resigned Manu Ginobili. Tony Parker, hopefully we’re going to resign him and still keep that core.

I always think that we can have some 3-point shooters. I think Matt Bonner shot the ball well early in the season. Roger Mason got hurt, he was one of our 3-point threats, so he wasn’t able to give 100 percent. I’ve got a lot of confidence in Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford to bring in guys who can contribute to bring us back to that championship form.

I know people will be excited if we can get at least one more championship during the Tim Duncan era.

We got to be realistic too, man. We’ve won four championships in 10, 11 years. That’s pretty good, man. We’ve got franchises that never won one. I know our fan base was a little disappointed that we got swept by Phoenix but we can’t forget. We’re still a dominant franchise. We’ve got to realize that the players were probably more disappointed than the fans. We’ve got to keep our confidence in our team. We know there is always another year.
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