PHILADELPHIA (AP) — His sneakers are returning to Philadelphia. The 76ers are hopeful Dr. J will come along for the ride.
A day after the Sixers swooped in and collected some Julius Erving memorabilia, team CEO Adam Aron said he has reached out to Dr. J about joining the organization in some capacity.
“We’d like to bring Dr. J back to Philadelphia,” Aron said Monday. “He’s only one of the greatest 76ers of all time. We’d love to see Julius Erving have a connection with the 76ers in some shape or fashion. I don’t know what, exactly.”
Erving’s retired No. 6 already hangs in the rafters — and soon Philadelphia fans will feel more connected to the Hall of Famer.
The team bought 10 lots containing 18 items from Erving’s personal basketball memorabilia collection auction that ended over the weekend.
SCP Auctions said more than 140 items from Erving’s collection sold for a record $3.5 million. Among the highlights: His 1974 New Jersey Nets ABA championship ring sold for $460,471, a record price for a sports ring.
Neither that ring nor Erving’s 1983 76ers NBA championship landed with the franchise.
Aron said all the items the team won were $10,000 or less.
Erving is aware the 76ers bought merchandise at the auction. He was not immediately available for comment.
Erving told The Associated Press last month he’s never been a “hoarder or collector,” and planned to donate a portion of the auction proceeds to the Salvation Army.
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.
The 76ers purchased items representative of his collegiate, ABA and NBA days, as well as awards that recognized Erving’s humanitarian work.
The memorabilia will go on display at the Wells Fargo Center and the team’s practice facility.
“We want him to know that the Sixers care about him in every dimension,” Aron said.
Aron had pledged a fan-friendly ownership and plans a grand unveiling of all the winning items at a later date. Among the memorabilia the 76ers own: late 1970s practice-worn warm-up suits; autographed Converse sneakers; his 1983 J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award; letters to Erving from former presidents; and the 1978 Wanamaker Athletic Award presented to Erving for reflecting the “Greatest Credit Upon Philadelphia.”
“We spent some real money,” Aron said. “We’ll have some fun Dr. J things to show our fans and our players.”
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.
That bond is about to tighten.
With NBA games through Dec. 15 canceled because of the lockout, Aron had time on his hands to bid. Joshua Harris and the rest of his new ownership group took control of the Sixers in October and have been unable to make a single personnel decision because of the lockout.
But they’ve been busy.
Aron promised cost-saving changes for fans at the introductory press conference and immediately slashed ticket prices. The Sixers received about 6,500 responses and suggestions to improve the product at NewSixersOwner.com — and Aron promised he’s reading and changes are in store.
He said he’s slept on his office sofa twice in the last month after late-night brainstorming sessions. Sixers ownership has a two-page, single-spaced list of all the game-day experiences it is improving — whenever the season starts.
“We want to give Sixers fans the kind of experience that they deserve,” he said, “and what they want.”
The Sixers have promised to strengthen the link to their past.
“We’ve been reaching out to a lot of our former Sixers players because we’d like to build a bit of a family here where, once you’re a 76er, you’re always a 76er,” Aron said.