I challenge you to find anybody as prolific as this man. A player of such unique skill sets who could score in great quantities with the most minimal amount of effort. He was part of the revolution that occurred with the merger of the ABA with the NBA. Transition was his game but don’t let the smooth taste fool you, this brother was just as cold in the half court set. He was “Super Fly” back when the story was to be told not sold. Word on the street was that he scored 63 points and never saw the fourth quarter. Slender was his frame; on narrow shoulders did he bare such a scoring role. He trotted while others sprinted, in between seemed to be his permanent speed. Cool breeze was the original playa as cool as the Himalayas. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m talking about the one and the only George “Iceman” Gervin.
The Iceman was part of a basketball cultural revolution in which the way the game was being played had to evolve. The people had spoken. He was now on a larger stage with more exposure and he did not disappoint. His skillset was prolific, as he possessed an arsenal of moves that were fundamentally sound but far from textbook. Up to this point, the basketball world had not seen a player who could manufacture scoring opportunities with and without the ball. He released the ball with a sideways flick of the wrist high upon his right arm while the left hand was unnaturally abandoned below. It was light in its flight but accurate in its descent. Coming off of screens or in transition, one dribble or no dribble, he was indiscriminant with his selection. Swiftly he tiptoed through a crowded lane, possessing a wide variety of finishing moves leaving its seven-foot dwellers in bewilderment. “Whereas I ain’t too fast, here to there, my gig is zigzaggin’,” recalls Gervin in his baritone voice.
Running hooks, floaters, and reverse layups that were looked at as unorthodox were yet pleasing in their aesthetic. He employed the bank shot from a plethora of angles and along with his patented finger roll that generated enough english on the ball that would make all pool players sit in awe. He was unbothered by your defensive pressure, as he stood recoiled on his pivot foot dragging his explosive first step from behind. Once in flight, he would float in between defenders and unleash his lethal scoring touch with a subtle flick of his fingers just before descending upon the court emotionless and stoic. Iceman was the original ghost face killer.
His exploits have taken on folkloric legend. He once scored 33 points in one quarter and never shot a three-pointer. Gervin was the first guard to have four scoring titles, three consecutively. His 63 points in three quarters were amassed with a 47% field goal percentage (23-49) and 20 made free throws at 85% accuracy. Iceman scored 40 or more points 68 times during his illustrious career and six times in the playoffs. His name is scattered in just about all of the San Antonio Spurs franchise record books second and third mostly to Tim Duncan and David Robinson. Gervin is No.1 in points per game at a 51% life time accuracy and second in total points yet fifth in games played and fourth in minutes played as he only lasted 12 years for the Spurs. Even though it was known that he was not a fan of great defense, he was not a liability either. Mr. “Cool Breeze” played in an era where weaknesses were exposed so he still managed to be third in steals for the franchise. Position defense was his forte. It would seem that less is more was his mantra when it came to the game.
Unappreciated by Cotton Fitzsimmons, the Spurs new head coach; Ice was traded to the Chicago Bulls for his declining skills and sub par defensive efforts. The business can be cruel some times. In a reunion of sorts, he would be playing for his old coach Stan Albeck whom he shared great memories with, as they would make the Western Conference Finals twice in 1982 and 1983. It would not be the smooth transition he had anticipated as Michael Jordan was publicly unhappy and had no comment about the transaction, It seemed that he still was bitter from the alleged freeze out All-Star game and his role in it. Ice was 10-12 from the field (.833), 3-4 from the free throw line (.750), for 23 points in 25 minutes while Jordan (a rookie) was 2-9, 3-4 from the line, and had seven points in 22 minutes.
Reminiscent of his days with Julius “Dr. J” Erving on the Virginia Squires of the ABA practicing with Jordan everyday, he began to recognize the potential and drive. “He was unbelievable. We kind of got along, but it was his turn and I knew it. We had some good battles in practice, like the old bull against the new bull, but I knew I was on the downward part of the hill. I knew I had to sacrifice,” recalled Gervin. Then, as luck would have it, Jordan was injured and it was up to the Iceman and the gang to salvage the season. It was gradual, but all of a sudden: 34 against the Indiana Pacers, 32 against Golden State Warriors, 27 against Denver Nuggets, 30 on the New York Knicks, 31 on the Cleveland Cavaliers, 31 on the Philadelphia 76ers, 45 against the Dallas Mavericks, 35 on Houston Rockets, and 37 on the Atlanta Hawks all at a sizzling 59% from the field. The Bulls crept into the playoffs with a 30-52 record. Jordan erupts against the Boston Celtics for 63 and then he was gone.
Nothing lasts forever. Highlights on YouTube and stats don’t do him the justice that he deserves. Standing some where around 6’8” and about a buck-85, this single blade of grass was the embodiment of cool, gold chain glistening around his neck and always calm under pressure. He was the only player whom Jerry West himself said he’d pay to watch play. After being elected into the Hall of Fame in the class of 1996, he has since shed his frigid guise and replaced it with the warmest endearing smile that would make the Kool-Aide glass pitcher jealous. He pops up every now and then in commercials and public appearances as he has become use to operating from behind the scenes. Since his playing days, there has been a new collection of scorers whom have surpassed a handful of his NBA records. This was bound to happen. What I find the most intriguing is the fact that every year you can find certain aspects of his game in different players but not one single player that possess them all. One thing is for certain however, no one will ever be more cool doing it.