Born: April 27, 1952
Position: Shooting Guard and Small Forward
Virginia Squires (ABA): 1972-’74
San Antonio Spurs (ABA/NBA): 1974-’85
Chicago Bulls (NBA): 1985-’86
One of the smoothest players to ever lace up a pair of Nikes, George Gervin was an effortless scoring machine. Nothing ever seemed to rattle, faze, or perturb the Ice Man. Inspired by Elgin Baylor’s litany of acrobatic and scooping shots, Gervin patented his own finger roll to stunning results.
The shot was a so unorthodox and yet so effective it couldn’t help but make Gervin a star. His offensive arsenal went beyond the finger roll, though. He had a stellar, if gawky, jump shot. His skin-and-bones frame meant post ups were out of the question, but Gervin was constantly able to squirm and sliver through defenses to attack the rim.
He couldn’t play a lick of defense but when you snag four scoring titles in five years, on outstanding field goal percentages, your team figures out how to make due. Indeed, Gervin had a scorching stretch from 1978 to 1984 where he averaged 28.8 points per game while shooting 51% from the field and 84% from the free throw line.
The San Antonio Spurs, whether in the ABA or NBA, certainly made the most of Gervin’s career as they missed the playoffs just once and advanced to the second round seven times including three trips to the Conference Finals.
Gervin’s offensive deluges were aided by players like James Silas – the floor general and leader of the Spurs in the 1970s – and Larry Kenon early in his career. Then a second band of helpmates in Johnny Moore, Mike Mitchell, and Artis Gilmore came aboard in the early 1980s. These players handled the passing, the defense, and the rebounding while Ice handled the scoring. Dick Motta in 1982 summed up defensive strategies for Gervin:
“You don’t stop George Gervin. You just hope that his arm gets tired after 40 shots. I believe the guy can score when he wants to. I wonder if he gets bored out there.”
At the tail-end of his career when the ice began to melt, Spurs coach Cotton Fitzsimmons broached Gervin with the idea of being a sixth man. After all, Gervin was in his early 30s now and his defense – never good – was getting horrendous. Gervin retorted, “I ain’t no John Havlicek.” Indeed he wasn’t. Havlicek was an all-around player while Gervin was “singular, comet-like” to use Terry Stembridge’s words.
Even if singular, his talent was awe-inspiring and it was enough to ensure that the San Antonio Spurs were a viable enough franchise to be absorbed by the NBA when the ABA finally collapsed in 1976. Future Spurs legends may have hung the title banners, but Gervin’s presence is what kept the franchise alive instead of having it permanently put on ice.
5x All-NBA 1st Team (1978-’82)
4x All-ABA/NBA 2nd Team (1975-’77, 1983)
12x ABA/NBA All-Star (1974-’85)
NBA All-Star Game MVP (1980)
ABA All-Rookie 1st Team (1973)
Regular Season Career Averages (1060 games):
Playoff Career Averages (84 games):