Perhaps the most famous member of the Hawks who never played a game during regular season, Julius "Dr. J" Erving's presence brought about hope that the Atlanta team could become a dominant force during a time when the shorts were small and the hair was big. The AJC Photo Vault looks back at the controversy and confusion that kept one of greatest players of the game from building a local dynasty.
Unhappy with his contract with the Virginia Squires of the American Basketball Association, Erving struck a deal with the Hawks before the 1972 draft for the National Basketball Association. But the Milwaukee Bucks drafted him, leading to a series of legal wrangles.
For one week of training camp, Dr. J was a Hawk, teamed with Pete Maravich. He averaged 24 points in two exhibition wins before the ABA forced him back to the Squires.. The Hawks were fined $25,000 per game by the NBA. Erving went back to Virginia for a second season. Facing the possibility of losing Erving to the NBA, ABA officials arranged for him to stay in the league with the New York Nets. The Hawks, Squires and Bucks all received some compensation.
During the summer of 2009 Erving moved to Atlanta to be near family and oversee his investment --- the former Heritage Golf Club in Tucker which he revamped under the name Celebrity Golf Club International a few years earlier. (The property subsequently went into foreclosure and Erving lost several million dollars on the deal.)
In an interview with AJC at the time, he reflected on his brief stint with the Hawks.
"Have you ever thought about how things would have been different had you been able to stay with the Hawks?" sports writer Steve Hummer asked.
Erving: "I was in camp with Pistol [Pete Maravich], Walt Bellamy, Lou Hudson. We had an All-Star team. We played two exhibitions games, and I bet you in both we scored north of 140 points. We were an unstoppable team. I don't know if anybody could have stopped us. It would have been different for everyone involved."