Long after his playing days, Dr. J is still driving the lane.
Traffic patterns were on the mind of Julius Erving, the good Dr. and hoops legend, as he talked of Las Vegas’ viability of an NBA city. By that, we mean a city with its own franchise. Las Vegas is already an NBA destination for such events as the In-Season Tournament.
Erving has visited Las Vegas for years, and was in town during the tournament. He has a feel for a city’s growth related to a professional team, having played in both the ABA (Virginia Squires and New York Nets) and NBA (Philadelphia 76ers).
“You have 41 games, then playoffs, and a there’s a lot of traffic out there, right now” Erving said in an exclusive interview Friday night after a dinner among VIPs at T-Mobile Arena. “You have small cities that are growing into big cities that have the same problem, how to build traffic flow. It’s happening in Las Vegas. A new team, an NBA team or the (Athletics) major-league team, will create a monstrous traffic problem.”
Erving continues to represent the NBA, and of the basketball culture, across the country and internationally. He wore an ABA All-Star jacket. During a Q&A session with broadcast great and ex-NFL star Ahmad Rashad, Erving was fast to remind that he had won two ABA championships with the Nets, along with his 1983 title with the 76ers.
“Since the ’70s, I’ve always gone around the world and been somewhat of an ambassador for the game,” he said. “But with so much interest in the NBA, there’s an uptick in that.”
It is ticking up in Las Vegas, where LeBron James and Shaquille O’Neal have expressed interest in investing in an expansion team in Las Vegas. Flavor Flav, too, has thrown his ideas out there — calling his “fictional” NBA team the Scorpions. As he said Saturday, “I’m naming them after what I step on in my backyard!”
Regardless of ownership, Erving says the city can absorb a team, even with infrastructure challenges.
“You’re going go have fans, coming in from everywhere,” he said. “You’re going to have a great following, in Las Vegas, if the team is successful. But if you’re going to do it, do it right.”
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on X, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.