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Today in Sports History – May 11, 1980: Dr. J defied Sir Isaac Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation

The 1980 NBA finals featured two of the greatest NBA legends: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Julius Erving, better wise known as Dr. J. While George Gervin led the league in scoring, Dr. J led in highlights. He did it all, from dunking from the foul line, to pulling the “rock the baby” cradle move, to even scoring from behind the backboard. In his sixteen seasons – five with the ABA, eleven with the NBA –  Dr. J became one of the most entertaining forwards to ever play the game, cementing himself in the NBA’s 1993 Hall of Fame Class. Dr. J brought dynamic, high-flying acrobatics to the ever growing sport of basketball that has been an inspiration to players to this day.

The Shot

Game four of the 1980 NBA Finals featured the Los Angeles Lakers and the Philadelphia 76ers. In the second half with the Sixers leading 89 to 84, the ball was passed to Dr. J.  He cut hard to the right, driving to the rim in classic fashion.  However, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jamal Wilkes, and Mark Landsberger cut him off. He was left with nowhere to go, except out of bounds. So, that is exactly what he did. Jumping out of bounds, Dr. J hooked  a reverse behind the basket while still in the air. He span the shot just high enough to get it to avoid the impending block from Abdul-Jabbar, who was on the way. With a kiss off the glass, the crowd erupted as the shot dropped in, leaving jaws on the floor.

The Impact

Dr. J’s move was historic. Magic Johnson, who was in his second season with the Lakers at the time, still talks about the moment he saw the reverse lay-up. The influence of a great like Dr. J helped players like Johnson form their own game. Julius Erving was indeed an innovator. He was often referred to as Thomas Edison because every game he had a new dunk, a new lay up, and a new approach to the game. As Erving famously once said, “I demand more from myself than anyone else could ever expect.”

Dr. J set an example with his play that truly elevated the sport. It is historic moments like these that make the game of basketball so great. Dr. J changed the game with his high flying acrobatics and monstrous dunks. Today, commemorates 40 years of greatness.

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