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Houston Rockets

Old School: George Gervin talks ABA influence, Harden's scoring and Antetokounmpo's potential

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George Gervin has been impressed by both Harden and Antetokounmpo this season (NBA Getty Images)

Of the 26,595 career points Hall of Famer George Gervin amassed in his 14-year professional career, nearly 6,000 were scored in the four years he spent playing with the Virginia Squires and San Antonio Spurs in the American Basketball Association. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that he is adamant in his belief that the ABA's influence on the modern-day NBA is very real.

NBA.com recently sat down with The Iceman to chat about the way he views the evolution of the game, James Harden's record-breaking season and Giannis Antetokounmpo's potential to become one of the NBA's best players.

Gervin, who averaged 25.1 points per game over the course of his career, knows a thing or two about filling it up. When asked about the evolution of the offensive game in today's NBA, the 12-time All-Star didn't hesitate to call back upon his time in the ABA:

"It's the ABA! American Basketball Association. Whether they want to accept it or not - I knew we could play back in the '70s, because it's a fast-paced game and that's what fans want to see.

"Fans want to see scoring. If you think about the '60s and early '70s, the NBA was scoring 70 and 80 points - it was more of a defensive game. People want to see guys put the ball in the hole, and that's what they're doing today and I think that's why the game's growing like it is."

In 1975-76 season - the final year before the NBA-ABA merger - the ABA's league scoring average was 112.5 points per game while the NBA's league scoring average was 104.3 points per game.

In his first NBA season, Gervin's 23.1 points per game led the Spurs to league-best 115.0 points per game, and the league's scoring average rose to 106.5 points per game. During his 10 years in the NBA, Gervin won four scoring titles, averaging a career-best 33.1 points per game in the 1979-80 season - a year where the league's scoring average had risen to 109.3 points per game.

Nearly 30 years later, the league's scoring average is 110.7 points per game and reigning MVP James Harden is leading the league with 36.6 points per game and is currently on a stretch in which he has scored 30 or more points for 31-straight games.

Gervin has definitely taken notice.

"Look at James Harden - he's shooting that rock. He's shooting a lot, but he's getting it done and it's exciting to see, even for a guy like me that put the ball in the hole… I ain't got nothing but praises for him; keep doing it James, because you're definitely going down in the record books for a long time.

"I thought I was the first guy in the Guinness Book of World Records for 33 [points] in a quarter, but I think he's got a chance to get in there, too."

While the Hall of Famer was quick to dish out praise to the Rockets All-Star guard, he is still reluctant to admit that he sees any player match the offensive versatility he showed during his prime: "I don't see anybody, I had lefts and rights, I don't see guys using lefts and rights - I had left and right hooks, and you know I'm known for the finger roll.

Gervin did, however, share a few parallels he sees with a different MVP candidate: "The boy in Milwaukee [Giannis Antetokounmpo] - sliding, gliding - that's how I did, I didn't jump, I slid like on roller skates.

"That's how he is, he's like Fred Astaire." Gervin continued, "he's smooth, but if he had a jump shot, I think he'd be the best thing in basketball right now."

Considering Antetokounmpo's average of 27.2 points per game at just 24-years-old, the prospect of continued development to his offensive game could very well make Gervin's prophecy become reality sooner than later.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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