Julius Erving, the great "Dr. J," had the biggest hand of any athlete I've ever shook hands with. If you care about these things, Michael Jordan was No. 2 on that list. And John Unitas, the iconic Baltimore Colts quarterback, was No. 3.

No, I'm not a hands freak. I'm just saying.

I interviewed The Doctor in the mid-1980s, at the tail end of his brilliant career, when he starred for the Philadelphia 76ers. He was still a hugely exciting player to watch, although his wondrous, soaring trips to the basket were becoming less frequent.

But he was still a terrific ambassador for the NBA and gracious with his time for a young columnist from Baltimore, for which I've always been eternally grateful.

That's one reason I'm looking forward to watching "The Doctor," a new documentary at 9 tonight on NBA-TV that explores the career of the most exciting basketball player I've ever seen.

I still believe Jordan was the greatest ever to play the game. But it was Dr. J who revolutionized it with his high-flying acrobatics, his mid-air spins and whirls that led to either feathery-soft lay-ins or thunderous slam-dunks in both the old ABA and NBA.

He was Michael Jordan before Michael Jordan. And no one was more thrilling to watch on a fast-break than Julius Erving.

Fast-breaks, remember them? The NBA game has evolved into an often-plodding half-court affair, where leviathons bang for position inside before bull-dozing their way to the basket or kicking the ball back out for an open jump shot.

But Dr. J on the run in the open court stirred the soul like no other sight in the game. And  watching him take off for the basket -- often from the free-throw line -- would make your jaw drop.

If tonight's documentary captures even a fraction of what made Julius Erving so great, it'll be well worth watching.