Philadelphia Sports Franchises: Philadelphia 76ers
March 23, 2011 Leave a comment
NBA Championships: 1955 (as the Syracuse Nationals), 1967, 1983
Retired Numbers: #2 Moses Malone, #6 Julius Irving, #10 Maurice Cheeks, #13 Wilt Chamberlain, #15 Hal Greer, #24 Bobby Jones, #32 Billy Cunningham, #34 Charles Barkley
Rivals: New York Knicks, Boston Celtics
The 76ers have a rich history, and are one of the oldest franchises in the NBA, originally known as the Syracuse Nationals from 1946 until 1963. The franchise has only won three NBA titles, two in Philadelphia, but has been home to some of the greatest players in NBA history, including Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Charles Barkley, and Allen Iverson. After winning the 1955 NBA Championship in Syracuse, the realization became to come around that the city was too small for a professional team to be profitable. After a lengthy search for a new home, the NBA (in the form of the new 76ers) returned to Philadelphia in 1963, just one year after the departure of the Warriors to San Francisco.
In the 1964-65 season, the 76ers acquired the legend Wilt Chamberlain form the Warriors. Chamberlain had been a high school phenom in Philly, and had continued his career in the city with the Warriors, so the acquisition was a natural move for all.
Chamberlain’s presence was vital to the success of the squad, particularly in the 1966-67 season, in which they finished with a 68-13 record, the best in league history at the time. The Sixers cruised by the Celtics in five games in the semifinals, and ousted the Warriors in six enroute to their second NBA Championship. This 1966-67 Philadelphia squad was voted as the best team in league history during the NBA’s 35th anniversary celebration. To this day, that team is recognized as one of the best teams every compiled in professional basketball.
In the 1967-68 season, the defending champion Sixers made it back to the NBA Playoffs and in the rematch of the previous year’s semifinals, the Sixers held a 3-1 series lead over Boston before they came back to win in seven games. At the end of that season, the 76ers made a questionable trade of Chamberlain to the Lakers for Archie Clark, Darrell Imhoff and Jerry Chambers.
This move virtually sent the Sixers into a freefall. The rapidly declining Sixers continued to contend for the next few seasons, until the bottom fell out in the 1972-73 season. The team finished the season with a 9-73 record, and an NBA-record 59 games behind the Atlantic Division champion Boston Celtics. The nine wins by the team is the second fewest in NBA history, and the 73 losses on the season remains the all-time low for any NBA franchise in history.
In next few years saw periods of pseudo-resurgence, with the hiring of Gene Shue as head coach, the acquisition of George McGinnis and drafting of Darryl Dawkins directly out of high school. However, due to Dawkins’ lack of development and lingering injuries, his NBA career was limited to 9 years which were mildly notable. The 1976-77 season, however, would be a memorable one for the Sixers, as they acquired Julius Irving as part of an ABA-NBA merger. The next few seasons saw the Sixers falling just short of the NBA Championship, even after numerous coaching and other personnel changes.
However, the final piece to the puzzle fit into place in the history 1982-83 season, when the Sixers acquired center Moses Malone from the Houston Rockets. Led by Malone, Irving, and All-Stars Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney, and Bobby Jones, the squad dominated the regular season, winning 65 games in what is still the second most winning year in franchise history. Malone was named the League MVP, and helped to lead the Sixers to making a mockery of the Eastern Conference playoffs, sweeping the Knicks in four games and the Bucks in five. The Sixers went on to win their third and most recent NBA title with a four game sweep of the Lakers, who had defeated them the previous season.
After a disappointing 1983-84 season, which ended with a five-game loss to the Nets in the first round of the playoffs, Charles Barkley arrived in Philly for the 1984-85 season, where he stayed for the next 8 years. The Sixer returned to the Eastern Conference Finals, but lost to Boston in five games.
In 1986, another highly controversial move was made by the front office, as ownership traded Moses Malone to Washington and the first overall pick in the 1986 Draft to the Cavs in exchange for Roy Hinson, Jeff Ruland, and Cliff Robinson, none of whom played more than three seasons with the team. Such led to a period of mediocrity for the Sixers, in which they experienced on and off seasons of playoff appearances, and no real levels of notable success. In June of 1992, Barkley was traded to the Suns, yet another deal met with harsh criticism by fans.
The years following the trade have been dubbed “The Dark Ages” by Sixers fans, as the number in the wins column decreased each year. However, an answer to the hopelessness in the city of Brotherly Love came in 1996 with the top pick in the Draft, Allen Iverson. With new ownership, a new head coach in Larry Brown, and Iverson’s star presence in place, the late 90’s were times of resurgence for the franchise, with the team finding relative success in the playoffs in the 1999 and 2000 seasons. The real bright light in Sixers’ recent history came in the 2000-01 season when the team went 56-26 to clinch their first Division title since 1989-90, earning the top seed in the East. They dominated through the initial rounds of the playoffs, ousting the Pacers in four, the Raptors in seven, and the Bucks in seven, enroute to a Finals matchup with the Lakers, who ended up defeating the 76ers in a disappointing five game series. The 2000-01 Sixers featured the NBA’s MVP (Iverson), the Coach of the Year (Brown), the Defensive Player of the Year in Nazr Matumbo, and the Sixth Man of the Year in Aaron McKie.
The success found in the beginning of the 2000’s was not easily replicated in the latter half of the decade, as a disappointed Iverson announced in December 2006 that the team must find players that support him, or he would want a trade. Just two weeks later, Iverson was traded to the Nuggets.
Playoff contention returned to the Sixers’ franchise in 2008, but ended in a disappointing first round loss to the Pistons. In July of 2008, the Sixers signed power forward Elton Brand, and revamped the remaining roster, but still couldn’t find the form that propelled them to the playoffs the previous year. In addition, Brand’s first season with the Sixers ended early with a shoulder injury that required surgery. Despite the loss, the team earned a playoff berth, before losing a heartbreaking six-game series to the Magic.
On December 2, 2009, the Sixers announced that they had signed Iverson to a one-year prorated 1.3 million dollar non-guaranteed contract. However, the excitement due to this move quickly fluttered away, as Iverson announced in February 2010 that he was leaving the team indefinitely to care for his ill daughter, and a few weeks later, the Sixers announced that he was not returning for the rest of the season. The 76ers finished the season with a record of 27-55, its first 50-loss season since 1998.
On May 18, 2010, the NBA Draft Lottery was held, and the Sixers manged to land the second pick in the 2010 Draft, in which they drafted Evan Turner second overall. Stay tuned tomorrow as we dissect what is happening this season in Sixers’ basketball!