One of the smoothest players to ever lace up a pair of Nikes, George Gervin was an effortless scoring machine. Nothing ever seemed to rattle, faze, or perturb the Ice Man. Inspired by Elgin Baylor’s litany of acrobatic and scooping shots, Gervin patented the finger roll to stunning results.
The shot was a so unorthodox and yet so effective it couldn’t help but make Gervin a star. His offensive arsenal went beyond the finger roll, though. He had a stellar, if gawky, jump shot. His skin-and-bones frame meant post ups were out of the question, but Gervin was constantly able to squirm and sliver through defenses to attack the rim.
He couldn’t play a lick of defense but when you snag 4 scoring titles in 5 years, on outstanding field goal percentages, your team figures out how to make due.
The San Antonio Spurs, whether in the ABA or NBA, certainly made the most of Gervin’s career as they missed the playoffs just once and advanced to the 2nd round seven times including three trips to the Conference Finals.
Gervin’s offensive deluges were aided by players like James Silas and Larry Kenon early in his career, and Johnny Moore, Mike Mitchell and Artis Gilmore toward the end. These players handled the passing, the defense, and the rebounding while Ice handled the scoring. Dick Motta in 1982 summed up defensive strategies for Gervin:
“You don’t stop George Gervin. You just hope that his arm gets tired after 40 shots. I believe the guy can score when he wants to. I wonder if he gets bored out there.”
At the tailend of his career when the ice began to melt, Spurs Cotton Fitzsimmons broached Gervin with the idea of being a sixth man. Gervin retorted, “I ain’t no John Havlicek.” Indeed he wasn’t. Havlicek was an all-around player while Gervin was “singular, comet-like” to use Terry Stembridge’s words.
Even if singular, his talent was awe-inspiring and it was enough to ensure that the San Antonio Spurs were a viable enough franchise to be absorbed by the NBA when the ABA finally collapsed in 1976. Future Spurs legends may have hung the title banners, but Gervin’s presence is what kept the franchise alive instead of having it permanently put on ice.
Seasons Played: 1973 – 1986
2x All-ABA 2nd Team (1975-’76)
3x All-Star (1974-’76)
All-Rookie 1st Team (1973)
5x All-NBA 1st Team (1978-’82)
2x All-NBA 2nd Team (1977, 1983)
9x All-Star (1977-’85), All-Star Game MVP (1980)
ABA- 269 Games
21.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.4 SPG, 1.6 BPG, 48.0% FG, 83.1% FT
7th All-Time in PPG, 12th All-Time in FT%
9th All-Time in Blocks, 15th All-Time in Steals
NBA - 791 Games
26.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.8 BPG, 51.1% FG, 84.4% FT
4x PPG Leader (1978-’80, 1982)
9th All-Time in PPG