It's a marriage made in basketball heaven, this romance between George Gervin, one of the NBA's fastest gunners, and the city of San Antonio, where Old West sharpshooters once roamed the streets and Davy Crockett and friends defended the Alamo.
Descendents of those pioneers now crowd into HemisFair Arena and turn into one of the league's rowdiest gatherings everytime the man known simply as "Iceman" freezes another opponent.
Things especially have been at a hectic pitch around San Antonio since Gervin climbed to second place in the league scoring race and those reckless, put-it-up-as-fast-as-you-can Spurs took over the lead from the Bullets in the NBA Central Division.
The club is hoping it will receive national television exposure that finally will make Gervin's face familiar to fans outside the Southwest.
First the Spurs have to keep winning, the reason tonight's 8:30 o'clock (EST) showdown with those bad guys from Washington has the city so excited. It's almost as if the NBA was staging a modern version of the shootout at OK Corral.
The Bullets are facing an opponent that has won 11 of its last 12 games, hasn't lost at home in almost a month and actually is recognizing the word "defense" for the first time in the history of the franchise.
And if that's not sufficient to make the Bullets raise a white flag, Gervin has been the last two weeks so hot that calling him Iceman seems inappropriate.
In his previous game, he put another notch on his shooting arm, gunning down Kansas City with a season-high 42 points and hitting 19 of 25 shots. That's not bad for someone who played only two years of college basketball, almost became a juvenile delinquent in Detroit and was a forward until last season.
Gervin is the NBA's biggest guard, a 6-foot-7 conglomeration of arms and legs who uses his height and reach to shoot over smaller defenders from the outside and who twists his 185-pound frame between foes on the inside for Dr. J-like dunks.
Toss in an ability to get off shots most players wouldn't think of trying, mix a touch that only Mother Nature can provide and the result is a marksman who is shooting 54 per cent from the field this season. Only centers with a tip-in touch are supposed to connect with that consistency.
"I never plan a shot," he explains. "I just never give up. And luck is part of the game. If you can get the ball up around the hoop, it might go in."
Enough of them have gone in to earn him an average 27 points a game, four more than last season when he was sixth in scoring. The impressive performance caused him to be named to second-term all-league.
Garvin already has been voted to this year's Eastern Conference all star team and he is on the verge of becoming a legitimate superstar, an impressive accomplishment considering the odds encountered most of his life.
"I was wild and looking," Gervin says in talking about his youth on the East Side of Detroit.He stood in bread lines with his mother for food and he admits he stole to survive.
But he also played basketball well enough to earn a scholarship to Eastern Michigan and survived until the end of his sophomore year. After striking an opponent during an NAIA playoff game, he was expelled from school.
At age 19, he thought his basketball career was over. He began playing for a semipro team to keep active and was noticed by a scout, Red Kerr of the Virginia Squires. The Squires signed him in January 1973 to a $20,000 contract and a 14,000 bonus and he finally was able to leave Detroit.
Before the ABA folded, he made All-League twice, as the skinniest forward in basketball. But when guard James Silas, another all-ABA star, injured his knee last season, Gervin began his NBA career as a guard and wound up scoring 23 points a game and shooting almost 55% from the field.
"Last year was important to me," said Garvin. "When you are in the ABA, all you hear is 'Wait til you play in the real league.' We all had something to prove. I know I wanted to show that scoring 25 a game in the ABA was no fluke."
The Spurs still are considered somewhat of an NBA outcast. Their uproarious fans, their run-and-gun offense and their squad, almost exclusively. ABA players, separate them from the rest of the league. As in Gervin's case, times are changing for them, too.
The worst defensive team in the NBA last season, the Spurs have improved this year to the middle of the pack. And over the last 16 games, having won 13 times and taken over the Central Division lead, they have allowed an average of 102 points, scoring almost 111.
"I'm tired of this stuff about our defense being bad," said Coach Doug Moe, another of those North Carolina coaching disciples in the NBA. "The key is our scoring differential. As long as we outscore people, we win."
Gervin alone would make San Antonio tough to defense, mainly because his varied assortment of shots renders him almost unstoppable. But the Spurs also have seven others shooting at least 47 per cent from the field, including Larry Kenon (20.4) and Bill Paultz (15.2), who produce steady points every time out. And they have led the league in total assists most of the season.
Moe also has shored up a weakness at big forward by replacing 6-8 Allen Bristow with 6-11 Coby Dietrick, a better defensive player. Dietrick was playing behind center Paultz but that task has been assumed by former Sonic Mike Green.
Still, Gervin remains the key to the Spurs' fortunes. In crucial moments, Moe will station everyone on the baseline and let Gervin work one-on-one out front against his defender, who usually is three to four inches shorter.
That' when he shows why a Virginia Squire teammate, Fatty Taylor, began calling him Iceman, explaining that Gervin "always is a cool character on the court."
Gervin will back in, displaying remarkably efficient ball-handling for his size, and when it seems there is little chance he can get off a shot, he will. As Laker Lou Hudson put it, "He will score from places you don't think he can. And he keeps doing it."
Gervin's style is so relaxed that he admits he probably can play until his son is old enough to take over for him. His son is called "Ice Cube."
The Bullets beat the Spurs, 116-105, at Capital Centre in November. Gervin, who was in foul trouble most of the game had 20 points. Bullets Mitch Kupchak and Phil Chenier, both now injured, contributed 50. Playmaker Mike Gale, who missed that game with a sprained ankle, is healthy now and will start, for the Spurs. Bullet Tom Henderson has recovered from a bad ankle.