“Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it.” – George Halas
“Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it.” – George Halas
George Gervin played in both the American Basketball Association (ABA) and National Basketball Association (NBA) for the Virginia Squires, San Antonio Spurs, and Chicago Bulls. He 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.
Nicknamed Iceman for his cool demeanor on the court, Gervin was primarily known for his scoring talents. 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. The Spurs drafted high scoring guards Oliver Robinson of UAB and Tony Grier from South Florida to take some offensive pressure off Gervin. Prior to Michael Jordan, Gervin had the most scoring titles of any guard in league history.
Though a revered NBA and ABA All-Star and Hall of Famer, Gervin never made an appearance with a team in either an NBA or ABA championship series during his 13-year career in American professional basketball. Gervin holds the distinction of being a former teammate of both Julius Erving (with the Squires) and Michael Jordan (with the Bulls).
“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” – John Wooden
The 1982 NCAA Division 1 Championship Game was between the Georgetown Hoyas, led by Patrick Ewing and Eric “Sleepy” Floyd, versus the North Carolina Tar Heels, led by James Worthy, Sam Perkins, and a young Michael Jordan.
The championship matchup was tightly contested throughout, with no team ever leading by more than a few points, and 15 lead changes in the game overall. With slightly over a minute to go, Sleepy Floyd scored to put Georgetown on top, 62-61. After a timeout, Carolina worked the ball to its young freshman guard, Michael Jordan, who hit a jumper from the left wing with 17 seconds to go to put Carolina back on top, 63-62. Georgetown did not call timeout but immediately pushed the ball up the court. However, guard Fred Brown mistook Carolina’s James Worthy for a teammate and passed the ball right to his opponent. Worthy was fouled with 2 seconds to go. He missed both free throws, but with no timeouts left (Georgetown coach John Thompson, in a questionable move, used his last one before Worthy’s free throws rather than save it to set up a final play) the Hoyas’ last desperation shot fell short.
Aside from the dramatic finish in the final minute, the 1982 NCAA championship game is today primarily remembered as being the stage on which several eventual basketball legends were introduced to a national audience, particularly Michael Jordan of North Carolina and Georgetown’s Patrick Ewing, both 19-year-old freshmen at the time of this game. Both had outstanding games, Jordan with 16 points including the game-winner, and Ewing with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Jordan and Ewing went on to Hall of Fame careers in the National Basketball Association.
The real star of the 1982 title game, and a third player in this game who would eventually be inducted to the pro basketball Hall of Fame, was Carolina’s James Worthy. Worthy scored a game-high 28 points, showing the blazing speed and some of the same authoritative drives to the basket that later became familiar sights during his career with the powerful Los Angeles Lakers of the 1980s. Beyond these three legendary players, two other outstanding pro players of the 1980s and early 90s appeared in this 1982 game: Georgetown’s Sleepy Floyd, who went on to an All-Star career in the NBA (including a still-standing record for most points in a quarter and in a half for a playoff game) and Carolina’s Sam Perkins, who distinguished himself over a durable NBA career lasting 17 seasons.
“It’s not whether you win or lose, but whether I win or lose.” – Sandy Lyle
The highest honor Owens received came a full ten years after his death. Congressman Louis Stokes from Cleveland lobbied tirelessly to earn Owens a Congressional Gold Medal. The award was finally given to Owens’s widow by President Bush in 1990. During the ceremony, President Bush called Owens “an Olympic hero and an American hero every day of his life.”
Below is the transcript from George Bush, “Remarks at the Posthumous Presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal to Jesse Owens,” March 28, 1990. The President spoke at 11:50 a.m. in the Roosevelt Room at the White House.
“Well, this is so nice. And I was just telling Mrs. Owens I’m sorry Barbara is not here and that we view this as a very special occasion. But to Congressman Stokes and Senator Metzenbaum and then friends and teammates of the legendary Jesse Owens, welcome, all of you, to the White House.
It’s my pleasure to welcome you here to the White House to honor a man who really honored his own nation — Olympic hero and an American hero every day of his life. Jesse Owens was born with the gift of burning speed, and he took that God-given talent and developed it through years of training. And he was always the fastest. One afternoon in 1935 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, he set three world records and tied a fourth — all in 45 minutes. You talk about a young guy in a hurry — well, I think maybe that was — [laughter] — he was the epitome of that.
As an 18-year-old in 1933, he won the city of Cleveland championship — the 100-yard dash in 9.4, tying the world record while still in high school. He burst onto the world scene in 1936, and I think every American that studies history remembers this — the 1936 Olympics, Hitler’s Olympic games, the last Olympics before the outbreak of the Second World War. And the Berlin games were to be the showcase of Hitler’s theories on the superiority of the master race until this 23-year-old kid named Jesse Owens dashed to victory in the 100-, the 200-, and the 400-meter relay. It was an unrivaled athletic triumph. But more than that, it really was a triumph for all humanity.
And Jesse Owens returned to this nation a hero, a household name, billed as the fastest man on Earth. But it’s what he did after the spectacular performance of the Berlin games that earned him the enduring gratitude of all Americans. Jesse dedicated himself to upholding the Olympic ideal of sportsmanship and the American ideals of fairplay, hard work, and open competition.
And I know that his friend and fellow Clevelander, Harrison Dillard — now, which is Harrison? Right here, right behind you — Harrison Dillard, right here today. In 1941, at the Ohio State high school track championship, Harrison’s idol, Jesse Owens — you correct me if I’m wrong, now — gave him a new pair of track shoes. And that day, Harrison Dillard won two State titles in those new shoes. And 7 years later, as we all remember, he brought home the gold medal at the 1948 Olympics in Jesse’s event, that 100-meter dash, in the first games held since those Berlin games.
Jesse’s example and influence extended to Olympians like Harrison Dillard and to all other athletes across the country, and he became a special ambassador for sports — a man who taught the ideals that I just mentioned were the key to success not just on the athletic field but in the game of life. And that legacy lives today through the Jesse Owens Games, a playground olympics open to kids from 8 to 15 years old all across our country; through the Jesse Owens International Trophy Award, presented each year to the best amateur athlete in America; and of course, through the Jesse Owens Foundation, which enables talented young people who can’t afford college to fulfill that dream and get a degree. And I know it’s a point of pride to Ruth Owens that the Jesse Owens Scholarships are awarded without regard to race, creed, or color.
And it’s that legacy that we celebrate here today. And we remember Jesse Owens not only as the first athlete in Olympic history to win four gold medals. Today, 10 years since the passing of this great hero, it’s my honor to add to Jesse Owens’ collection a fifth gold medal — this one, as Ruth Owens said on Capitol Hill, for his humanitarian contributions in the race of life.
Mrs. Owens, it is with great pride and in honor of your late husband and his lasting achievements that I present to you this Congressional Gold Medal, the Jesse Owens Congressional Gold Medal. And we’re just delighted you came here to receive it.
Mrs. Owens. Mr. President, thank you so very much for this honor. Like your predecessors, President Ford, President Carter, who have recognized Jesse for his many contributions. Jesse achieved the unique distinction of being a legend in his own time. Despite the many honors, his greatest satisfaction came from his work with youth. Jesse’s work with youth is now carried on through, as you mentioned, the Jesse Owens Foundation, the ARCO [Atlantic Richfield Co.] Jesse Owens Games, and the International Amateur Athletic Association, spearheaded by Herb Douglas.
On behalf of the youth he still inspires, and on behalf of my family, we thank you.”