This year the Spurs are celebrating their 50th season in San Antonio. There have been many highs and a few lows. One trademark of the San Antonio Spurs has been their culture and their consistency. The keys to those qualities lie in their players. Always noted for development as well as being ahead of the curve on scouting international players, the Spurs way has made the franchise one of the most successful of all time. As we look back on the Silver & Black, we recognize the top 50 players in Spurs history. Each day, we will move up the countdown.
Number 3- George Gervin
“Ice.” It’s not just a name. It’s an attitude. It’s a style. It’s a design so unique that it only describes one man-
You could take a silhouette of Gervin in motion and it couldn’t be mistaken for anyone else from his time. Or any time. That’s the stuff an icon is made of. That’s the role of a progenitor, a true original. That’s what it means to be #44 for the San Antonio Spurs.
No player to grace the ABA or NBA was smoother than The Iceman. On the court, he looked like he was floating. He had an elegance unparalleled.
His greatness transcended his statistics, yet the numbers are impressive all the same. Of his 14 seasons, 4 of which he played in the ABA, he appeared in 12 All-Star games and took home the All-Star MVP honors in 1980. He was the league scoring champion 4 times from 1978 to 1982 and consistently ranked as a Top 10 player in a variety of metrics. Year after year he was among the leaders in points, free throws, field goals, usage percentage — the list goes on. His points per game average was good enough to rank as the 9th best all time in the NBA.
On April 9, 1978, The Iceman and the Denver Nugget’s David Thompson were neck and neck for the season’s scoring title. In his final game, Thompson scored 73 points and would take the title unless Gervin could score at least 59. Before the Spurs’ game Doug Moe is said to have told the team to feed Iceman the ball until he had those 59 points. After missing his first six shots, Gervin tried to call it off only to have Moe overrule him, even pulling Larry Kenon for not feeding George the ball.
Not only did #44 secure the scoring crown with 63 points that night, he dropped 33 points in a single quarter, the most ever without the benefit of the 3-point shot. But despite all of the accolades, Gervin never ended a year with a Championship ring or an MVP award.
No one can deny George Gervin’s effectiveness. He had a seven-year run where he averaged no less than 25.9 points a game.
It’s hard to think of Iceman’s game apart from the finger roll.
A shot so difficult to defend when executed correctly, yet so hard to perfect. His speed and agility, his ability to move without the ball, and his penchant for stopping on a dime to elevate into his jump shot made Ice a superior offensive weapon.
He would rise above the defense, sometimes from as far back as the free throw line, and roll the ball into the hoop. He danced on the hardwood and would shake defenders before releasing a one-handed jump shot from 18 feet out. But there’s so much more to Gervin’s game than effectiveness. He didn’t just score, he made it look easy.
Gervin’s game seems perfectly suited for slow motion. There’s something about his movement and scoring that both demands to be savored, while still appearing so effortless.
Everything that has evolved in the history of the Spurs rolled right off the fingertips of The Iceman. Without him, who’s to say how the franchise would have taken shape?
In the history of sport, yesteryear’s heroes were meant to bested. Records are broken and a lifetime of arguments form in bars, stadiums, and online for all to join. A young, ambitious player sees the bar set by those before and makes it his goal to surpass it. George Gervin didn’t have the bar. He was the bar. He didn’t set it and move on, he continued to better himself. That in and of itself has defined the San Antonio Spurs. It has grown from Gervin’s vision and leadership.
Gervin’s outgoing play made him one of the greats. His individual records are astounding. His outspoken nature propelled him into the limelight and made him a national star — in San Antonio.
He didn’t have access to all of the Spursiness for which the franchise would eventually be known, that came later. But he had enough to hone his attack until it was deadly, and decidedly his. He had enough to play for something beyond himself, for the fans.
And catering to the franchise and to the fans is still a huge part of George Gervin, the man.
After his basketball career ended, he has remained a prominent member of the San Antonio community. From motivational speaking engagements and commercials for local vendors, to his own George Gervin Youth Center and George Gervin Academy, Ice has cultivated a culture geared toward supporting at-risk youth and increasing family dynamics.
He recently revealed the Spurs “City Jersey” coinciding with their 50th season. Who better than the superstar of the era for which the jerseys have been modeled.
Keep your eyes peeled during games this season and expect there to be some Iceman sightings at some special games.
Next up: He established the culture that would permeate San Antonio basketball to this very day...
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