10 Most Breathtaking Moments in Philadelphia 76ers History
With the Philadelphia 76ers playing as well as they have been so far this season, some people have started to think back to the glory days in Philadelphia.
The Sixers aren't one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference, but they are trying to make an argument day in and day out that they should be involved in the conversation and four of their past five games should give them at least something to start with. Wins over Orlando, Chicago, Atlanta and the Lakers recently have given them some quality wins, even if they have lost twice to Miami so far this season.
So, with the Sixers looking relevant again and playing exciting basketball, I'm starting to think back to the past. Which moments in Philly history stand out more than others and which of those moments just take your breath away looking back.
I've done the grunt work for you guys and thrown ten of the most exciting, breathtaking and exhilarating moments in Sixers history together for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy.
Allen Iverson's Stepover
Being the young man that I am, the first year I can remember really following the entire league was the 2000-2001 season. Sure, before that I watched Michael Jordan whenever I could and kept my eye on my Cleveland Cavaliers, but that 2001 season was my first foray deep into NBA interest, and it all culminated with that exciting 2001 Finals.
In the first game of the series, Tyronne Lue was pestering Allen Iverson the entire game, really giving him a hard time, that is, until this happened.
Iverson whipped out his signature crossover, got the space he needed and drained a shot over a lunging Lue. Lue hit the ground as the ball went through the hoop and Iverson promptly stepped over Lue, dripping with symbolism and intimidation.
Iverson went on to score 48 points in Philly's only win in the series, although Iverson would be brilliant in their subsequent four losses, scoring 23, 35, 35 and 37 points in the four losses.
Charles Barkley Wears 32
1991 was an interesting time for the NBA. Eras that were once overlapping were quickly separating as Michael Jordan's Bulls were emerging, Larry Bird was on his last legs and a bad back and the seemingly eternal Magic Johnson retired after testing positive for HIV.
Players and officials alike were afraid of the implications of playing with a man who had contracted the disease, as a cut could prove dangerous.
Charles Barkley, however, wanted to honor his friend as the Sixers allowed him to wear Billy Cunningham's retired number 32 in support of Magic instead of his normal number 32.
When asked whether he was concerned or not about possibly contracting the disease when playing with him, Barkley responded as only Barkley could with the following, "We're just playing basketball. It's not like we're going out to have unprotected sex with Magic."
Allen Iverson's Playoff Debut
Way back in 1999, the Philadelphia 76ers were looking at making the playoffs for the first time since 1991 with a sexy 28-22 record in the lockout-shortened season. This was to be Allen Iverson's first playoff appearance.
Philly was a heavy underdog against the third-seeded Magic and they were expected to be dealt with quickly.
Iverson would have none of that, however, as the Sixers won the series in four games largely on the back of AI. He scored 30, 33 and 37 points in the Sixers' three wins including the ever-memorable 33 point, five assist, 10 steal and two block performance he put in during game three.
Despite four more impressive games from Iverson, the Sixers were swept in the next round by the Indiana Pacers and Reggie Miller.
The "Beat LA" Chant
In one of the most astonishing displays of hatred in NBA history, Boston's ever-famous "Beat LA" chant came out in one of the most unexpected situations ever.
With victory well within their grasp in the 1982 Eastern Conference Finals and the Sixers looking ahead to a Finals date with the Lakers, all that was left to do was dribble out the clock and take their flight out of Boston.
Then, unexpectedly the crowd in the Boston Garden who hated this team with every fiber of their being during the series and over the past few seasons started to cheer for the Sixers.
With 26 seconds to go in the game, "Beat LA" started to rain down over the victorious Philly team leaving announcers Dick Stockton and Bill Russell in astonishment. Whether it was a sign of respect or just a sign of even more hatred for the Lakers I can't rightly say, but it's nothing short of amazing.
Unfortunately for fans of either team, Magic Johnson and the Lakers were too much for the 76ers, beating Philly in six games.
Signing Moses, Buying Dr. J and Trading for the Big Dipper
I figured that rather than wasting three slides on the 76ers just acquiring players that I would go ahead and lump them together so I could save room for some other, less talked about events in Philly's history.
The first time the Sixers acquired a sure-fire Hall of Famer came in 1965 after the Warriors shipped him to Philly for Connie Dierking, Paul Neumann, Lee Shaffer and a few bucks. I'd say it was worth it. Two years later, with one of the greatest teams in NBA history the 1967 76ers (that's a mouthful) finally got past those pesky Boston Celtics and even beat the Warriors in the Finals, but more on that later.
Then, as the ABA folded and teams were migrating over along with the high-flying stars, another unexpected hero came to Philadelphia. The New York Nets found themselves short on cash after paying the NBA entrance fee and a fee for invading on the Knicks' territory, so they had to sell their star player. They turned to the Sixers who promptly bought Dr. J for a measly $3 million.
Finally in what was the Sixers biggest free agent acquisition ever, Philly took a run at signing Moses Malone who was fresh off his 1982 MVP season.
Darryl Dawkins Shatters a Backboard...Twice
There isn't another play in basketball that is more exciting. I would rather see someone shatter a backboard than see a man dunk from beyond the free throw line in a game. In fact, the only personal achievement I think I'd rather see would be another player score 100 points in a game (or maybe just 81, the jury's still out on that).
So you can imagine that during the 1979 season when Darryl Dawkins broke not one, but two backboards with "The Chocolate-Thunder-Flying, Robinzine-Crying, Teeth-Shaking, Glass-Breaking, Rump-Roasting, Bun-Toasting, Wham-Bam, Glass-Breaker-I-Am-Jam," the world would take notice.
The NBA was so upset that they warned they would levy a $5,000 fine if he did it again, lord knows it would have been worth every penny.
The 2001 Season and All It Contained
In what was the greatest season for the 76ers since the 80s, the 2001 season gave Philly fans hope for the coming years, even though hindsight tells us how these years ended up.
As a team, the Sixers were complete beasts on defense with Eric Snow (don't freaking laugh, I'm serious) holding down the point and Dikembe Mutombo swatting shots and wagging fingers down low. Everything just kind of fell into place from there.
However, on offense, the Sixers were all Iverson. He put up more than 31 points per game that season when no other player averaged more than 13.
Iverson took home the MVP Award that year for his stellar play and the Sixers made it to the NBA Finals, only to lose to the Shaqobe Lakers in five games.
The Baseline Scoop
This, to me, is the single greatest in-game play in the history of the NBA.
As the Sixers battled the Lakers in game four 1980 NBA Finals, Julius Erving pulled off something that I don't think anyone in today's NBA could pull off in a game, let alone during the NBA Finals.
Mark Landsberger forced him along the baseline, but he still had space to go up for a layup or dunk over Landsberger, that is until Kareem Abdul-Jabar rotated over. Instead of passing it away, Dr. J decided that he was going to score anyway. While flying out of bounds in the right side of the lane he pumped the ball up above the lower part of the backboard, went up and under and laid it in on the right side.
If you (like me) have tried this by yourself in your driveway before you'll know just how ridiculously long he was able to stay in midair. Sheer madness.
1983 Sixers Nearly Go Fo Fo Fo
The poor 1980s 76ers had to deal with getting past the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference and then the Los Angeles Lakers in the West if they got past Boston. They learned the hard way that that was easier said than done in 1980, and then again in 1981, and then again in 1982. Needless to say, they were tired of getting stepped on by the Birds and the Magics of the league.
That's why when they were making their way through the 1983 season with newly acquired Moses Malone they were cautiously optimistic.
After a powerful 65-17 season, Moses Malone famously promised a, "Fo', Fo', Fo'," run through the playoffs, basically saying that they weren't going to be losing any games en route to a title.
Moses wouldn't be proved wrong twice in the same playoffs as the Sixers dispatched the Lakers in four games in which Moses dominated.
That day, redemption was spelled M-O-S-E-S.
Wilt Breaks Through in 1967
The only thing that could have trumped the Sixers finally taking down the Lakers in 1983 and Moses nearly predicting the results had to be Wilt Chamberlain and the Sixers finally beating their arch nemesis and winning a title in 1967.
Often referred to as one of the ten greatest teams of all-time (alongside the '96 Bulls and '86 Celtics and yes, the '83 Sixers among others) these '67 Sixers had a title on their minds the whole way through.
A 68-13 season topped the next closest team (those pesky Celtics) by eight games and his 24 points, 24 rebounds and eight assists per game won Wilt Chamberlain the NBA MVP Award.
The playoffs came and they dispatched Oscar Robertson's Cincinnati Royals in four games, but the Celtics were the real obstacle, especially after Bill Russell's Celtics had taken out Wilt Chamberlain-led teams in five of his first eight seasons.
Five games later, even though Chamberlain hadn't had Chamberlainesq game until the last game, the Sixers had won. Another six and they had dispatched San Francisco, Chamberlain's old team, to win the title.
The Sixers may have only two titles in their history (three if you count the Syracuse Nationals), but from a fan's perspective you have to assume that those two were as valuable as a dozen of the Lakers or Celtics crowns.
If you are one of those twitterers, you can follow me @JDorsey33.