Photo credits: Joe Hamilton
George Gervin is a former professional basketball player who is regarded as one of the best shooting guards in NBA history. He was born on April 27, 1952, in Detroit, Michigan.
Gervin had a natural talent for basketball as a boy and began playing with a neighborhood buddy, Ralph Simpson, who later went on to play at Michigan State. Gervin tried out for the school’s basketball team while attending Martin Luther King High School, but was not selected. Gervin befriended the school’s custodian and agreed to sweep the gym floor in exchange for after-school sessions to improve his shots.
Gervin’s basketball career improved dramatically as a result of his passion and commitment to the game, but his academic career suffered tremendously. Gervin had to attend summer school and miss half of his junior year games in order to catch up to his peers. However, Gervin’s last year at Martin Luther King offered him stability, as he led his high school team to the state playoffs with an average of 31 points and 20 rebounds.
George Gervin got a scholarship at Long Beach State after graduating from high school, but the culture shock forced him to return home before even finishing a semester. Gervin went on to Eastern Michigan University, whereas, when he was a sophomore, he averaged 29.5 points per game.
Gervin’s basketball career was derailed once again after he punched a Roanoke College player out of irritation during a game. Gervin’s otherwise spotless record suffered as a result of this action. He was banned for the next season before being dismissed from the Eastern Michigan club entirely. Gervin was also barred from auditioning for the Olympic and Pan-American teams, in addition to being fired.
As a final choice, the failing athlete returned to the Eastern Basketball Association, where he was able to get a berth in the lesser levels. Gervin got a break when a scout from the Virginia Squires, Johnny Kerr, saw him score 50 points during one of his games with the Pontiac Chapparals and offered him a position that paid $40,000 per year instead of the previous $6,000.
Gervin earned the nickname The Iceman for his calm and collected manner on the floor, averaging 14.1 points per game with the Virginia Squires.
Gervin’s contract was sold to the San Antonio Spurs on the day he participated in his first ABA All-Star game during the 1973-1974 season. While the NBA and ABA investigated the arrangement, the 21-year-old star went into hiding. Finally, the Spurs won the decision, and Gervin entered the club with a starting point average of 23.4 points per game. For two years in a row, he was named to the All-Star squad as one of the top ten scorers in the league. During the 1975 ABA All-Star game, Gervin was able to share the court with his boyhood buddy Ralph.
When the Spurs entered the NBA in 1976, Gervin surprised many of his doubters by winning four scoring championships in five years, as well as five All-NBA First Team choices and appearances in nine straight NBA All-Star games. George Gervin retired after a spectacular career with the Spurs and went on to represent Banco Roma in Italy.
Gervin shifted his focus to a new sport and established an annual golf event in San Antonio. He also worked for the Spurs as a community relations representative until 1992, when he was promoted to assistant coach by Head Coach John Lucas.
George Gervin was chosen to the NBA 50th Anniversary All-Time Team and was also inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hoops Hall of Fame, despite his inability to return to basketball.