Gerald Henderson Still Looks Great

NBA star and basketball dad reminisces about the legends

He is just above his NBA playing weight and still looks great. He won NBA titles with the Boston Celtics in 1981 and 1984, and with Detroit in 1990. He played for the 76ers and raised his son Gerald Henderson, Jr. locally, where he starred at Episcopal Academy and Duke before playing eight years in the NBA.

Now the 6’1” Henderson can happily look back at it all, including his famous steal that turned the tide and momentum in the 1984 NBA finals in favor of his Celtics, who eventually won over the Lakers in seven games.

One of the questions he’s asked often is who, in their prime, is really better: Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Julius Erving, Lebron James, or Kobe Bryant. There are others to discuss but for the sake of this article, we’ll keep it to this five. One of the reasons it comes up now is with the rise of the 76ers mercurial 6-foot-10-inch point guard Ben Simmons, who could be the league’s next great player that doesn't play the center position. His teammate Joel Embiid appears to be the next great center, who one day may be lumped in with Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Shaquille O’Neal, and Hakeem Olajuwon, to name a few.

“I grew up in Virginia,” said the senior Henderson. “I saw Dr. J in his young 20s in the ABA with the Virginia Squires. He was a transcendental player, like all these guys. But no one dunked like him when he was younger. His hands were so big he just put the ball in his hand and raised it over his head and stuffed it home, like no one I have seen. He was a dominant player and champion. Unfortunately, his games weren’t seen by many back then. When he came into the NBA with the 76ers, we all saw his greatness, and we had wars with him when I played for the Celtics. But he had an all-around game with scoring, passing, defense, and dominating. I think he’s really underrated, actually.”

When it comes to Bird, he thinks Bird may be the best. He’s not biased just because he played with him. “At the end of games, when we needed a rebound, it was Larry Bird who got that rebound. When it came to shooting and clutch shooting, there is no one on this list who was like Bird. Bird and Magic, and even Lebron, are guys who do it all. They can take the ball out themselves, set up the offense, pass, shoot, rebound. And Larry Bird on defense? He was tremendous. Why do people think he wasn’t a great defensive player? When we needed a stop, he always got his man. And he averaged over 10 rebounds a game for his career.”

Henderson loves Bryant and James, too, and agrees that winning rings and making the finals are essential to the overall figure. “How many titles does Kobe have? Five? That says a lot. He was sensational. Why did people have to say he was the next Jordan or one below Jordan? He is his own man. He’s Kobe Bryant and I loved his game. He was wonderful. He is one of those guys who willed his team to win.” Henderson loves that James has been to seven straight finals, eight overall, and won three. “He is not as good a shooter as Bird, or dunker like Doc, but obviously he’s special. He makes his teammates better and he is a team player. He has been a force of nature but I think at this point Bird and Magic did more, but again, it’s so hard to compare eras. We are talking about elite, elite, elite, elite guys. It’s really unfair to compare eras. It makes for great conversation.”

About his own career: Henderson was a pesky point guard who improved dramatically and benefited from playing with superstars on three different teams. “I had a great career and great time in the NBA. It gave me a great life. But right now, I just enjoy playing golf [and staying in shape; he was spotted eating a salad at Whole Foods on Dec. 3] and seeing a lot of these guys at different events. The game is still great I think the coaching in some cases and teams were probably better back then. There’s a little more showmanship now that we didn’t do when I played but it’s a sign of the times. Larry Bird and Dr. J never really did that stuff, but I know my son’s generation loves it.”


Gerald Henderson Still Looks Great
Jeremy Treatman - Contributor

Jeremy Treatman is the founder and co-director of the Scholastic Play-by-Play Classics and Sports Broadcasting Camps. Over 50 NBA players, including Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and Rajon Rondo played in his events when they were in high school. Jeremy wrote high school sports for the INQUIRER for 10 years, and was the first TV reporter for the HIgh School Sports Show on Channel 29 from 1994-2001. He currently is Comcast's announcer for all high school games.


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