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27th Annual Summer Celebration

The Aspen Institute marked the end of the summer with the 27th Annual Summer Celebration. We are delighted to have honored  Julius “Dr. J” Erving with the Citizen Leadership Award for his lifetime of achievement in basketball, sports and society. As one of the most incredible and innovative players of his generation, Dr. J has used his career and platform to promote sportsmanship, character, and the virtues of a good life. He has not only been an ambassador for the game, but an ambassador for the good society. Through his work with the Salvation Army and Dropping Dimes Foundation, he has touched so many lives and continues to inspire generations of athletes and community leaders.

We began our Summer Celebration program in the Greenwald Pavilion with a limited capacity public conversation with our esteemed honoree as well as our featured moderator, HBO “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” correspondent Jon Frankel. Please enjoy the recording of the conversation in the video below:

About our Honoree:

Julius Winfield Erving, internationally recognized as Dr. J, was the dominant basketball player of his era, and a true innovator who revolutionized the way the game was played. Widely heralded as one of the all- time greats, Dr. J’s strong leadership skills led his teams to championships in both leagues while his authentically thrilling high-flying style on the court captivated millions of fans from all over the world along the way. A gracious, dignified, and disciplined man, Dr. J is an ideal ambassador of the sport. He is the epitome of class and humility, and no one is more respected both on and off the court.


Dr. J played professional basketball for 16 years and left as the third highest scorer of the time. In 1993, Erving was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and was also named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-time team. In 2017, GQ Magazine selected him as part of the 50 Greatest Living Athletes, a true testament to his staying power of remaining generationally relevant some 30 years after his playing career ended.


Dr. J has been engaged in several charitable pursuits since he left the NBA. He is currently on the Advisory Board of the Dropping Dimes Foundation, which aids former players of the American Basketball Association and their families who are in need. He is also a former member of the United Athletes Foundation’s Advisory Board. The Julius Erving Golf Classic honors his contributions to the game of basketball and has benefitted The Salvation Army of South Jersey and The Salvation Army of Greater Philadelphia. The Salvation Army organization is very meaningful to Dr. J, as it was where he first played on a basketball team in the early 1960s. He also created the Julius Erving Research Fund at the Philadelphia Tri-State Chapter of the Lupus Foundation of America. The fund supports research relating to the diagnosis and treatment of lupus, with the goal of finding a cure.

About our Moderator:

Jon Frankel is a correspondent for HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” which he joined in 2006 with a background in hard news and sports television. Previously, he was a correspondent on CBS’s “The Early Show,” a general assignment reporter for ABC News, and a correspondent for NBC’s “The Today Show.” Frankel’s investigation of the gun industry and its marketing toward children won “Real Sports” the 2015 Sports Emmy Award for Outstanding Sports Journalism. He was also correspondent on the acclaimed 2016 “Real Sports” exposé on the International Olympic Committee, which captured a DuPont-Columbia University broadcast journalism award and the Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Journalism.

Event information
Thu Aug 5, 2021
Aspen, CO