This article previously appeared on Crossfader
I met Dr. J once. It was an . . . unorthodox celebrity experience, to say the least. It began in a welcome room at the start of a college tour when my friends and I noticed an older man who looked way too familiar—he looked like Julius Erving. But we couldn’t be too sure.
He wore a 76ers cap, but anyone could wear one. He seemed pretty tall, but some people have good genes. It wasn’t until his son introduced himself as Jules that we thought, “Okay—it’s Dr. f*cking J.” What struck me about the whole experience was just how quiet he was. He wasn’t shy or uncomfortable, he was just reserved—a far cry from the big personalities that tend to dominate basketball.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I first found out about HOUSE CALL WITH DR. J, a new podcast hosted by the same Dr. J that seemed almost embarrassed to be recognized when asked for a photograph (he was a complete gentleman, though). And not only does he host the show, he’s brilliantly charming and witty, with an unrecognizable sense of confidence.
I know—it sounds ridiculous to underestimate the showmanship of a man who essentially revolutionized the slam dunk, but the big personas of the ‘80s, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, or Kareem Abdul Jabar, have largely overshadowed him for modern fans. But that’s partly what makes HOUSE CALL such an endearing “sports” podcast. Erving relies on his smooth charisma and confidence rather than a loud voice or brash opinions. And he encourages his guests to do the same, especially when it comes to topics other than basketball.
Though an essential listen for any NBA fan, it feels unfair to call HOUSE CALL a “sports” show, as the iTunes Store would have listeners believe. Instead, life and culture—discussions of society both personally and in the scope of the broader world—dominate the conversation on the podcast. The pedigree of his guests obviously helps; being an NBA Hall of Famer draws big names, from Mark Cuban to Chuck D of Public Enemy. But it’s Erving’s ability to share jokes and banter with his guests that ultimately produces a fun and endlessly entertaining conversation, something that allows the show to stand apart from other interview podcasts.
Celebrity-hosted shows tend to have this advantage; everybody loves listening to famous billionaires or rappers tell the host himself how big of fans they are. But credit goes to Erving for creating a space where both his guests and listeners can feel comfortable to listen and interact the same way they would with a friend. Only two shows in, HOUSE CALL already appears certain to attract a wide audience should Erving continue in the right direction. It’s the type of interview show anyone would be envious to appear on—if only for a chance to fanboy over Dr. J without making him so visibly uncomfortable.