Julius Erving: Ben Simmons may be a 'once in a lifetime-type player'

Julius Erving – and his new sculpture – poses with Clint Richardson (right), his Sixers teammate when they won the NBA title in 1983.

One has to assume that Julius Erving is a big fan of 76ers point guard Ben Simmons.

Erving, a Hall of Famer and former Sixers great, was in the Philadelphia area Tuesday for the unveiling of his sculpture at the team’s practice facility in Camden. He also attended that night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets at the Wells Fargo Center.

While here, he took time to talk about Simmons’ unique skills.

“Once in a decade, maybe once in a lifetime-type player,” Erving said. He’s “able to make everybody better immediately each and every time down the floor, guys are spotting up or looking to cut or keying off of triggers that come out of his handling skills.”

The 6-foot-10, 240-pounder took season totals of 1,187 points, 613 assists and 603 rebounds in Tuesday’s contest. As a result, he became the first person to record 1,000 points, 600 assists and 600 rebounds in his first 75 career games since the 1963-64 season.

Simmons headed into Tuesday’s game with 11 triple-doubles and 35 double-doubles. The rookie-of-the-year favorite has averaged a triple-double (13.2 points, 11.8 assists and 10.1 rebounds) during the team’s 10-game winning streak heading into Tuesday.

“Sometimes it looks like he’s got eyes in the back of his head,” Erving said, “because he sees and feels one of his guys making a run to the hoop or spotting up at certain positions. That’s just a gifted player that we are very fortunate to have on our team.”

Simmons learned of Erving’s praise before the game. He said it was surreal, especially coming from Erving. His father told him stories about Erving playing for the Nets and building the Sixers into a perennial championship contender.

“He pretty much built this team up, the name of the Sixers based on the way he played,” Simmons said. “It’s amazing [that Erving praised him]. Amazing to hear that.”

Dr. J honored

Julius Erving found his place on the 76ers Legends Walk at their practice facility in Camden. In a ceremony, the team placed a sculpture of him alongside those of Sixers greats Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Billy Cunningham, Mo Cheeks, and Bobby Jones.

Erving was a two-time NBA MVP and an 11-time all-star who led the Sixers to the 1983 NBA title. The small forward won two ABA titles and earned two ABA MVP awards before being acquired by the NBA’s Sixers before the 1976-77 season. He compiled 30,026 points, 10,525 rebounds and 5,176 assists in 16 seasons combined in the NBA and ABA.

Camera icon TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Julius Erving walks with his wife Dorys past sculptures of other Sixers greats after the team unveiled a new statue of him at their Camden practice facility.

The Sixers retired his No. 6 jersey on April 18, 1988. Erving was named to the NBA’s 35th anniversary team on Oct. 30, 1980. On Oct. 29, 1996, he was honored as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history.

The organization honored Erving before the game. Simmons presented a small bust sculpture of Erving to him at center court. Fans were given blue Dr. J T-shirts.