George Gervin (born April 27, 1952), nicknamed “The Iceman”, is an American retired professional basketball player who played in both the American Basketball Association (ABA) and National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Virginia Squires, San Antonio Spurs, and Chicago Bulls. Gervin averaged at least 14 points per game in all 14 of his ABA and NBA seasons, and finished with an NBA career average of 26.2 points per game. Gervin is widely regarded to be one of the greatest shooting guards in NBA history.
Gervin initially played for the Pontiac (Michigan) Chaparrals of the Eastern Basketball Association, where he was spotted by Johnny Kerr, a scout for the Virginia Squires of the ABA. Kerr signed Gervin to the Squires for a $40,000 a year contract.
Gervin’s time in Virginia would be short-lived, however. The Squires’ finances had never been stable, and they had been forced to start trading their best players to get enough money to stay alive. In the space of only four months, they traded Julius Erving and Swen Nater for cash and/or draft picks. During the 1974 ABA All-Star Weekend, rumors abounded that the Squires were in talks about dealing Gervin for cash. The rumors turned out to be true; on January 30 Gervin was sold to the Spurs for $228,000. The ABA tried to block the trade, claiming that by trading their last legitimate star, the Squires were holding a fire sale. However, a court sided with the Spurs. Within two years, the Squires were no more.
With Gervin as the centerpiece, the Spurs transformed from a primarily defense-oriented team into an exciting fast-breaking team that played what coach Bob Bass called “schoolyard basketball”. Although the Spurs never won an ABA playoff series during Gervin’s first three years there, their high-powered offense made them very attractive to the NBA, and the Spurs joined the more established league as part of the 1976 ABA–NBA merger.
Gervin’s first NBA scoring crown came in 1978, when he narrowly edged David Thompson for the scoring title by seven hundredths of a point (27.22 to 27.15). Although Thompson came up with a memorable performance for the last game of the regular season, scoring 73 points, Gervin maintained his slight lead by scoring 63 points (including a then NBA record 33 points in the second quarter) in a loss in his last game of the season. With the scoring crown in hand, he sat out some of the third, and all of the fourth quarter.
Gervin went on to lead the NBA in scoring average three years in a row from 1978 to 1980 (with a high of 33.1 points per game in 1979-80), and again in 1982. Prior to Michael Jordan, Gervin had the most scoring titles of any guard in league history. In 1981, while sitting out three games due to injury, Gervin’s replacement, Ron Brewer, averaged over 30 ppg. When Gervin returned, he scored 40+ points. When asked if he was sending a message, Gervin said, “Just the way the Lord planned it” and added, “Ice be cool” (with Ron Brewer). In 1982, the Spurs drafted high scoring guards Oliver Robinson of UAB and Tony Grier from South Florida to take some offensive pressure off Gervin.
When he left the NBA, Gervin played for several years in Europe: in Italy for Banco Roma during the 1986-87 season where he averaged 26.1 points per game, and in the Spanish National Basketball League for TDK Manresa team (he was 38 years old at the time). At this point in his career he had lost some of his quickness, but his scoring instinct remained; he averaged 25.5 points, 5 rebounds and 1.2 assists, and in his last match he scored 31 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to keep Manresa in the first Spanish division.
Career highlights and awards
9× NBA All-Star (1977–1985)
NBA All-Star Game MVP (1980)
5× All-NBA First Team (1978–1982)
2× All-NBA Second Team (1977, 1983)
4× NBA scoring champion (1978–1980, 1982)
3× ABA All-Star (1974–1976)
2× All-ABA Second Team (1975, 1976)
ABA All-Rookie First Team (1973)
No. 44 retired by San Antonio Spurs
NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team
ABA All-Time Team
Career NBA and ABA statistics
Points 26,595 (25.1 ppg)
Rebounds 5,602 (5.3 rpg)
Assists 2,798 (2.6 apg)