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OTL: Reaching Out

Originally Published: December 18, 2008
By Tom Friend
She put her dad on a shelf and left him there for a quarter-century. Just because the rest of the world is preoccupied with Julius Erving doesn't mean she's had to be. She says she has never Googled him, that she has never even heard of "The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh." Instead, everything she's learned about the man has come second- or eighth-hand. She first heard he was her father when she was 4, and she first started denying it when she was 5. She'd say her father died in the war or that he was a sheik in Kuwait or that his name was "Ken." She didn't celebrate Father's Day, she celebrated Grandfather's Day. On dad-daughter nights at school, she'd show up with an uncle or a neighbor. On registration forms that required a father's name, she'd write "N/A" or "None Of Your Business!" Through the years, Dr. J wasn't so much a secret as he was a figment of her imagination.

Until two months ago, when the phone rang ...

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