The line of agate type from the fourth quarter play-by-play sheet spoke volumes on the matchup between the grand statesman of the NBA, Julius Erving of the Philadelphia 76ers, and his heir apparent, rookie Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls:
6:13 Erving bank shot FT line.
That's right, a bank shot from the free throw line.
Oh sure, there was Erving's layup, in which the ball went through the hoop off the right side of the backboard even though the Doctor was standing on the left when he released it. And Jordan did have the only stuff by the pair, a one-handed number from underneath the basket.
But the first basket was scored against Dave Corzine, the latter on Sedale Threatt. Erving finished with 26 points and eight rebounds, Jordan had 16 points and seven assists, but for the most part, the 76ers' 109-100 victory over the Bulls Saturday night at Chicago Stadium might as well have been Cleveland versus Indiana, Paul Thompson against Jerry Sichting.
There were those who tried to warn us. "I doubt if they even match up against each other. One's a guard, the other's a forward," said Philadelphia Coach Billy Cunningham before the game.
But the sellout crowd of 18,116 -- some fans in fur coats and tuxedos -- came expecting much more. Their thinking was more along the lines of Cunningham's assistant, Matty Guokas. "What is Larry Bird? He's big, he's small, he's a forward, he's a guard," said Guokas. "He's whatever you want him to be whenever you want him to be it just as long as he's on the floor.
"That's the kind of player Doc is, and Jordan, too. The other night, Michael got the ball at the three-point circle, twisted his hip and moved around one guy. The crowd went absolutely wild, they knew something was going to happen and the guy was still 75 feet away from his own basket."
Jordan entered the game as the league's fifth-leading scorer, averaging 27.3 points a game. Erving was scoring at a 20.5 clip, but his place in the game's history long had been secured. Of course, the two weren't buying the hype.
"Just another game," said Mister J. "Another 1/82nd of the schedule," said Doctor J. And so it went, right up to 6:21 p.m. Central Standard Time. It was then that the rookie Jordan approached Erving, a 13-year veteran, just outside the three-point circle at Chicago Stadium's westernmost basket.
The event was heralded with flashing lights from the cameras of a half-dozen or so photographers, but the conversation wasn't nearly as impressive. Jordan remarked that he'd always thought Erving was taller. "No, just 6-6 1/2," was the reply. "But that's funny, I thought you were taller, too."
After the introductions, Erving continued shooting alone at the basket while Jordan enjoyed a reunion of sorts with U.S. Olympic teammate Leon Wood and fellow all-America Charles Barkley of Philadelphia. But the scene seemed more like something that could have happened on Mount Olympus between Zeus and Hercules.
When the players were introduced, Erving got a big hand, Jordan a standing ovation that nearly lasted until the opening tipoff. Surely, now that the niceties had ended, the skying, flying and oh-me-oh-mying would begin.
That wasn't the case. The first three baskets were scored by the players guarded by the star attractions, one by Philadelphia's Clint Richardson sandwiched between a pair by the Bulls' Orlando Woolridge.
Erving's first points came on an 18-foot jumper from the right base line. In all, only six of the Doc's points -- three layups -- weren't a result of jump shots or free throws.
By the time Jordan took his first shot, Woolridge had scored nine points. It wasn't until more than eight minutes of the period had passed that Jordan scored, on a layup following a steal from Moses Malone. The first time the rookie attempted a dunk, the effort was rejected by Malone. Although almost ignored at the game's start, it was obvious after Malone finished with 39 points and 19 rebounds that he had provided the real show.
Cunningham's prediction that Jordan and Erving would not be matched against the other nearly came to pass. It wasn't until the 10:15 mark of the second quarter, when Erving replaced Bobby Jones, that ground zero was finally reached. But the subsequent explosion was a dud. The matchup lasted all of 55 seconds. Jordan missed a short jumper from the lane; Erving, taking advantage of a defensive switch, scored on a short jumper over guard Quintin Dailey.
At 9:20 of the period, Woolridge returned to the game for Dailey, sending Jordan back to his big guard position. It wasn't until the game's final 8:50 that the pair hooked up again, for a total of 4 minutes 50 seconds, with Erving's awkward jump shot from the foul line the only one-on-one score.
Afterward, Jordan tried to maintain the party line. "Usually I go out and try to score and get things started for my team and that's what I did tonight," he said. "It was nice meeting the Doctor. I admire his personality and his abilities. Hopefully, he respects me."
Jordan was asked about his choice of this game for the debut of his specially created basketball shoe, the Air Jordan. "Ahh, I just wore them tonight to see if anybody would gripe about them. No one did." He looked away, smiling shyly.
Over in the Philadelphia locker room, Erving appeared not at all put off by Jordan being touted as the next Doctor.
"I've always wanted my legacy to be one of a complete player and because that's what people are saying about him, I would think I should be flattered," said Erving.
Bulls Coach Kevin Loughery thought Erving was being gracious. "The last matchup that I can recall being hyped up like this was probably Larry Bird against Magic Johnson," said Loughery. "But that was different. They had played against each other in college, they were rookies together. Doc's been in the game 13 years, Michael 11 games. It's unfair to both of them."
Still, it's no secret that Jordan -- or at least those who are managing his career -- is hoping that the comparison is a valid one, on and off the court.
"What's happened to me wasn't part of a master plan. It was never something that I tried to chart and graph," said the Doctor. "I don't know how to advise someone to do it and you can't predict how people will react, anyway. But from all I've heard about how he handles himself, he's positive and sensitive. It's good to see another successful, nice guy out there."
Or did the good Doctor mean up there, way atop Mount Olympus?