PHILADELPHIA—Julius Erving has denied an upcoming auction of his personal basketball memorabilia collection is tied to a lawsuit filed against him by a Georgia bank.
Known on the hardwood as Dr. J, Erving tells The Associated Press on Wednesday he's never been a "hoarder or collector," and plans to donate a portion of the auction proceeds to the Salvation Army. Erving's auction collection includes his 1983 NBA championship ring with the Philadelphia 76ers, a pair of ABA championship rings with the New York Nets, and MVP trophies from each league.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that Erving owes more than $200,000 on a loan with Georgia Primary Bank, according to a lawsuit filed in Fulton Superior Court.
The lawsuit was reported only hours after SCP Auctions announced that bidding would be open to registered bidders on Friday for many of Erving's championship rings, important awards and game-used items. The timing of Tuesday's announcements led to speculation that Erving, voted one of the NBA's 50 greatest players, was hocking goods because the Hall of Famer needed cash.
Not true, he said.
"That irony actually gave me a sleepless night last night," he said. "I had to laugh at it and cringe at it that these stories would run concurrent with one another."
The 61-year-old Erving said the auction was part of a long-planned celebration of his career. He said most of his cherished possessions were in storage and that he rarely looked at his collection. He said he occasionally wore his 1983 ring and never his ABA rings. Erving said he will keep his Hall of Fame ring. His induction into the Hall of Fame came in 1993.
"My family is 100 percent behind it," he said. "We decided to do it a long time ago. To claim it's a firesale or to clear up some debt, I don't think so. You don't do an auction overnight. This has been long planned. We had 4,000 catalogs that have been mailed already to people who buy this kind of stuff."
Be prepared to spend. Dr. J's goods don't come cheap. Items available at http://www.scpauctions.com include:
-- 1969-70 game-worn UMass jersey. Minimum bid: $15,000.
-- 1974 New Jersey Nets ABA championship ring. Minimum bid: $20,000
-- 1975-76 ABA MVP trophy. Minimum bid: $10,000.
-- 1983 Philadelphia 76ers NBA championship ring. Minimum bid: $25,000.
Yes, even a pair of game-worn Converse sneakers customized for the cult classic, "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh," are available for a minimum bid of $500.
Just don't expect to soar through the air like Dr. J.
His above-the-rim game, first unveiled in the renegade American Basketball Association, was a harbinger of the style that was soon to dominate. Erving won pro basketball's first slam-dunk competition, and his soaring reverse layup from the baseline during the 1980 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers was a highlight for the ages.
"With me being involved in the process and the one that's putting it out, it's actually a better situation economically then if my children or grandchildren were to do it," Erving said. "We decided now's the time."
Still, Erving has been hit with financial issues since he moved to Atlanta, the newspaper reported. The AJC reported in April 2010 that a golf club Erving purchased was in foreclosure. The bank filed a lawsuit Oct. 18 against Erving and his corporation, The Erving Group Inc. of Atlanta. Erving's company was given a $1 million line of credit in April 2009, which was due the following April, according to the lawsuit obtained by the AJC.
In the lawsuit, the bank stated an outstanding balance of $205,277.84 has not been paid, despite a demand letter for payment sent Sept. 29.
Erving said he visited the bank on Wednesday in an attempt to resolve the issue.
Erving said he still works and lives off his present-day income, not any savings. He's involved in a cell phone business and medical records company, among others.
But his marquee job is just being Dr. J.
"Every day there's something associated with Dr. J that I have to discuss with one or more of my personal associates or family members," he said.
Erving is perhaps the greatest Sixer and the franchise hasn't won a championship since `83. His sightings in the city and at Sixers functions have been sparse and there was a disconnect between him and the team.
The Sixers were recently sold to new owners that promised to strengthen the link to their past. Majority owner Joshua Harris and Erving served together on the board of directors at Converse, and Dr. J was recently back in the Philadelphia area for a private reunion of the 1983 team.
"They are reaching out and they are interested in their heritage and that's good to see," Erving said.
Bidding will be open to registered bidders on Friday and end Nov. 19.
Follow Dan Gelston at http://twitter.com/APgelston