Say it ain't so, Doc and Kareem

MIKE LITTWIN

December 18, 1991|By MIKE LITTWIN

Is it the money? Can't be the money. They've got all the money. They got summers-in-France-and-winters-in-Aspen money.

So, it's not the money.

It's not the shoes either.

I don't know what it is because I've got my eyes covered in case I catch a glimpse of it. I'm talking, of course, of Julius Erving vs. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, one-on-one, in Atlantic City on Feb. 28. Pay per view. Twenty bucks a household.

Some of the money goes to AIDS research. Some of the money goes to the promoters. A lot of it goes to Kareem. A lot of it goes to the Doc.

It's the match nobody wanted to see. What's next? Why not charge 20 bucks to see Willie Mays hobble out to center field TC and have someone hit fungoes at him and see Willie limp out from under his cap while fly balls drop all around him?

If you want a comeback match, how about this one: Bob Beamon vs. D. B. Cooper. Otherwise, I have only this to say: Doctor, heal thyself.

What is going on here? Once upon a time, the man they call Dr. J was the classiest of all class acts in sports. They said he was Nureyev in short pants, but really he was Olivier. In England, he'd have been Lord Dr. J.

He's the only guy they ever said played the game with elan. Hell, he even knows what elan means. Here's a guy who can jump out of the gym and talks like Winston Churchill, and now he's Larry Holmes. I know everyone comes back, but not the Doc. Say it ain't so.

I guess it started with those chicken commercials he's doing. Why not go one-on-one with Frank Perdue? If Julius Erving sells a product, it should convey a certain style, and not something they ask you to eat with your fingers. But he got money for nothing, chicken for free.

It was a short step from there to this Atlantic City circus act, where you figure the Doc probably needs a trampoline now to dunk. I figure next he'll one-on-two with Regis and Kathie Lee.

Originally, they were going to feature Kareem vs. Wilt, but Wilt's days and nights were booked early into the next century. So Kareem settled for Dr. J, and now Kareem, as you might have heard, is taking this a step further. He is talking about coming back to play in the NBA. He's kidding, right? The last time I saw him play, Kareem was only slightly more mobile than the Chrysler Building. During a rainstorm, they have to oil him or he rusts. Come on, the only way Kareem could shoot a skyhook now is if somebody holds him on the end of a crane.

He says he wants to come back to highlight his friend Magic Johnson's plight. That's all well and good, although I didn't hear him say he'd donate the money -- you figure he'd play for money, right? -- to AIDS research. Why not just go on a speaking tour? Why not do commercials for Rogaine and donate the money? Why not just give up some of his own actual money?

All athletes come back, but I think Kareem's motivation is a little different. I think he wants to play so he can retire again. Remember the last retirement tour? He got more gifts than Liz Taylor at all her weddings combined. A shopping tip: Kareem loves jazz CDs.

Maybe it's the thrill he misses. Palmer came back and Nixon came back and Joe Frazier came back. They all come back.

Ray Leonard, who has been in retirement a little over a year, which is several years short of his personal high, will be back soon. He'll probably fight Kareem. As I said, Wilt will be tied up.

George Foreman is back. Paul Tsongas. Larry Holmes.

Foreman fights a guy named Jimmy Ellis, and everyone figured it was the real Jimmy Ellis when it was actually an ersatz Jimmy Ellis, who apparently bought the Jimmy Ellis franchise, which came just slightly cheaper than the George Chuvalo franchise. It's like going to a Marvellettes concert expecting to see the originals and finding out all the singers are 22. Jimmy Ellis II can't fight at all. But he is better than the guy Larry Holmes just fought, by the name of Jamie "Featherman" Howe. The Featherman (Featherman? This is a name for a heavyweight boxer? Why not just call him Lightweight?) was 15-13-1 and an unemployed welder. That's show biz, folks.

Holmes, who swore he'd never come back, has about a hundred million dollars in the bank, and now he's back fighting. Didn't he tape the Holmes-Tyson fight? He probably can't remember it, or anything that happened before it.

I don't get it. If the word ever got out, the lottery would go out of business. But here it is anyway: Apparently, retiring with gobs of money and nothing to do except any darned thing you'd ever want to do is simply not enough. Let me ask you this: Are you willing to take that chance?

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