UNIONDALE, N.Y. (Lighthouse Press) _ Thirty-eight years after he left his hometown team in a highly criticized departure that damaged an entire franchise for over two decades, Julius "Dr. J" Erving is coming back to Nassau Coliseum to play for the arena's final pro sports tenant, the New York Islanders.
He's returning to his Long Island roots to play a sport he is unfamiliar with at an age when most people are setting into retirement. And he's doing it to make good on a promise.
"I always believed that I'd return to Nassau Coliseum and finish my career there. I just didn't know when or what sport I'd be playing," Erving told Sports Illustrated in an exclusive interview announcing his comeback. "The more time passed, and passed and passed and passed, the more it felt right to play for the Islanders. This is what makes me happy."
Erving has not yet signed a contract, but he made it clear that he will wear an Islanders jersey next season, the team's last at Nassau Coliseum. The franchise will relocate to Brooklyn to play at Barclays Center starting in 2015.
"I think I can help John Tavares become the best center in our league. I think I can help elevate Travis Hamonic and Kyle Okposo. And I can't wait to reunite with Doug Weight, one of my favorite American Olympians that I have seen play on TV."
The Islanders are thrilled to have him. Erving, 64, was one of the basketball's most decorated and legendary players, known for his superlative skills and spectacular dunks. A three-time American Basketball Association MVP and two-time ABA champion with the New York Nets, "Dr. J" also was named the 1981 NBA MVP with the Philadelphia 76ers. He won an NBA title with the Sixers in 1983.
At 6-foot-6 and three times as old as most of the roster, Erving can give the Islanders the veteran defenseman with size that they have been seeking.
"Bringing in 'The Doctor' is the right thing to do right now," said Islanders coach Jack Capuano. "He plays hard, plays smart and is going to bring the battle level that we always look for in all our players.
"Just because the guy is in his 60's doesn't mean he can't be a warrior for us. Look at Gordie Howe. He was 77 years old when he played in Hartford with his sons who were in their 40's."
Erving was born and raised in Roosevelt, a town just a few minutes from Uniondale, the site of Nassau Coliseum. He was a star for the Nets before his contract was sold to the Sixers so that the Nets could enter the NBA as part of the merger with the ABA. While the Nets languished in obscurity in New Jersey for over 20 years, Erving continued to thrill fans in Philadelphia and eventually glided to the Basketball Hall of Fame.
He comes back to Long Island a different man and much, much more mature for his encore.
"I feel my calling here goes above playing hockey professionally for the first time in my 60's," Erving said. "My presence can make a difference on Long Island. I want kids in Northport and Patchogue and Massapequa and Fort Salonga to realize that there's no better place to grow up, move far away from and come back to thirty years later when you're famous and can afford to live here again."
Capuano said the Islanders also plan on bringing in Vinny Testaverde, Craig Biggio, Sarah Hughes and Mick Foley for tryouts later this summer.
This is fake. It's basically just a spoof this AP story. Dr. J is not coming back to play for the Islanders so don't try to trade Josh Bailey for him.