Editor’s Note: As part of a new series for his podcast, “What’s Wright with Nick Wright,” FOX Sports commentator Nick Wright is ranking the 50 best NBA players of the last 50 years. The countdown continues today with player No. 36, George Gervin.
George Gervin’s career highlights:
- Nine-time All-Star
- Five-time first-team All-NBA, two-time second team
- Two-time MVP runner-up
- Four-time scoring champion
- Ninth all time in scoring average (26.1)
Few players in NBA history could score like George Gervin. Even fewer had better nicknames.
The only thing cooler than his name — “The Iceman” — was his game.
For more than a decade, Gervin vexed defenders with an array of jumpers, runners, dunks and, of course, his patented finger roll. He scored gracefully, efficiently and relentlessly. And then he scored some more.
“He was a pure scorer, but scoring is the most important part of the game,” Wright said. “He did it better than just about anybody ever aside from a dozen or so guys, so he absolutely deserves his spot.”
George Gervin is No. 36 on Nick Wright’s list
George Gervin never won the Finals, but he had remarkable playoff stats and averaged 25.1 points per game for his entire pro career, NBA and ABA. In addition, Gervin had four top-five MVP finishes in a row.
Following a successful stint in the ABA, Gervin joined the NBA along with the expansion Spurs as a fully formed star. On April 9, 1978, he lit up the basketball world. It was the last day of the regular season and the sinewy, 6-foot-7 shooting guard needed 58 points to win the scoring title over David Thompson, who erupted for 73 points that afternoon.
Gervin responded by putting up 53 by halftime against the Jazz, including 33 in the second quarter to eclipse the NBA record for a quarter that Thompson had set just hours earlier. He finished with 63 points to win the first of three consecutive scoring titles.
“I think he’s slightly underrated historically,” Wright said. “He’s not higher because he never won in the playoffs.”
Gervin never won it all, to be exact. But all his scoring wasn’t in vain. Void of a perennial All-Star teammate, Gervin lifted San Antonio to three conference finals and eight playoff appearances over nine seasons.
In 1979, the Spurs edged the 76ers in the Eastern Conference semifinals after Gervin tallied 33 points, 12 rebounds and five assists in Game 7 to outduel Julius Erving. San Antonio built a 3-1 lead over Washington behind Gervin’s 42 and 6 in Game 4. He’d replicate that line in Game 7, only for the Spurs to lose by two.
It’s the closest Gervin would come to reaching the Finals. San Antonio lost two more conference finals to the “Showtime” Lakers and won just three playoff series total during his career. The lack of team success belies his brilliance. He finished runner-up for MVP twice and was top five four years in a row.
Gervin’s 26.2 scoring average (on 51.1% shooting) is ninth best in NBA history and has been topped by just four players over the past 40 years. His playoff average of 27.0 also ranks ninth.
“When you score at that level, when you are one of the — of the last 50 years, one could argue — one of the 10 greatest scorers,” Wright reiterated, “it at least gets you firmly in the top 40 of players.”
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