Philadelphia 76ers: 12 Most Memorable Moments in Franchise History
It seems as if more memorable moments have taken place against the Philadelphia 76ers, rather than in their favor.
However, when the 76ers franchise has found success, it has been some of the greatest in NBA history.
Since 1963, the Sixers have seen players such as Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Charles Barkley and Allen Iverson wear the team’s uniform while leading the franchise.
Although seasons such as 1972-1973, when the team went 9-73, still exist, seasons that have included NBA championships have also been witnessed.
From the return of basketball in the city of Philadelphia during the spring of 1963, to Lou Williams’ three pointer in game four against the Miami Heat in the 2011 playoffs, the Sixers have had almost five decades of ups and downs.
In between, there have been some of the most memorable moments in franchise history.
12. Iverson Crosses Over Jordan
As if being the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft and heading to Philadelphia didn’t give Allen Iverson enough attention, his comments to the rest of league during his rookie season sure did the trick.
In the midst of a 22-60 season, Iverson made it known to the rest of the league that he not only didn't feel any fear toward fellow players on the court, but that they would also have to gain his respect.
Believe it or not, some players took offense to these remarks.
Including Michael Jordan.
And on March 12, 1997, the two squared off against each other.
By the third quarter, Iverson found himself at the top of the key, one-on-one against Jordan.
Iverson used what would become his notorious crossover move to get past Jordan, head right and hit a jumper for two of his 37 points in the game.
Jordan would finish with 23 points and along with Scottie Pippen’s 31 points and Dennis Rodman’s 17 rebounds, guide the Chicago Bulls to a 108-104 victory.
The game was the Bulls 55th victory of the season while the Sixers fell to 16-46.
Nevertheless, Iverson gave Sixers fans reason to cheer and look forward to the future, after not having a winning season since 1990-1991.
11. Sixers Acquire Julius Erving
What did the Sixers have to give up for one of the 50 greatest NBA players of all time?
About $6 million.
The Sixers had only been to the playoffs once in the five seasons prior to Erving’s arrival and had not won 50 games since the 1968-1969 season.
Just four seasons earlier, the Sixers finished with the worst record in NBA history by going 9-73.
In stepped Erving.
Not only did Erving revitalize 76ers basketball, but he also revolutionized the game at a league-wide level through his above-the-rim style of play.
After Erving’s arrival, the Sixers would only win less than 50 games twice in his 11 seasons, while making the playoffs each year.
The Sixers advanced past the first round in nine of those 11 postseasons, including four finals appearances, winning the NBA championship in 1983.
Dr. J averaged 21.8 points as a Sixer, including 26.9 a game during a 1979-1980 campaign that saw the Sixers get past the Boston Celtics before falling to the Los Angeles Lakers and rookie Magic Johnson in the Finals.
He also won the MVP award for the 1980-1981 season.
Erving would need one more roster addition in order to get his first NBA championship.
1983 would be the season.
10. 2000-2001 Season
The 2000-2001 season not only cemented Allen Iverson’s superstar status but also put 76er basketball back on the map for the time being.
For the first time in over a decade, the Sixers had themselves a 50-win season.
The season’s success was a culmination of a great draft choice, head coaching hire and midseason acquisitions coming together for one of the Sixers most memorable seasons.
The team started the season 10-0 and finished with a 56-26 record, good enough for first place in the Atlantic Division.
The Sixers then began fighting their way through the postseason by winning their first-round series against the Indiana Pacers three games to one.
Next, the Sixers defeated the Toronto Raptors in a memorable Eastern Conference semifinal series four games to three after Vince Carter missed a last second buzzer beater in Game 7.
The Sixers then defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in seven games to reach the NBA Finals, where they would play one of their most memorable games in franchise history in game one versus the Los Angeles Lakers.
Close to a million fans traveled to the First Union Center during the 2000-2001 to see a Sixers team that featured four award winners.
Allen Iverson and his 31.1 points per games earned him the league’s MVP award.
Dikembe Mutombo’s 12.4 rebounds earned him Defensive Player of the Year honors. His 2.5 blocks per game were second on the team to Theo Ratliff’s 3.7 a night prior to his trade.
Aaron McKie’s 11.6 points and five assists per game helped him win Sixth Man of the Year Award.
Head coach Larry Brown completed the team’s award sweep, as he won Coach of the Year.
Eric Snow and his 7.4 assists per game, as well as the contributions of Tyrone Hill and George Lynch, who both averaged over 30 minutes a game, also helped lead the Sixers to one of their most memorable seasons.
The 2000-2001 season was the last time the Sixers have appeared in the NBA Finals. The team has advanced past the first round of the playoffs just twice in the last decade and have had just three winning seasons.
The team has also had seven different head coaches during this time frame.
The 2000-2001 season is still arguably one of the most memorable in franchise history.
9. Julius Erving's "Rock the Baby" Dunk
It’s not surprising that one of the NBA’s greatest players is also one of the best dunkers of all time.
In one of both Erving’s and the Sixers most memorable moments, the Hall of Famer came up with a steal off a deflection by Maurice Cheeks.
Erving then raced down the court and found himself with only the Lakers Michael Cooper in his path to the basket.
He then cradled the ball between his wrist and forearm before dunking it in front of an amazed Sixers crowd at the Spectrum.
Chick Hearn described Erving’s dunk as rocking the baby to sleep.
The dunk is considered one of Erving’s best as well as one of the greatest of all time.
And does anything but put people to sleep.
8. 1981 Eastern Conference Finals
There’s nothing like seeing two of the greatest players of all time face off against each other.
And the 1981 Eastern Conference finals provided just that.
Julius Erving and the 76ers faced Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics, after both teams had finished the regular season with 62-20 records.
While it was Erving’s fourth trip to the Eastern Conference finals in five years, it was just Bird’s second season in the league.
The series went the full seven games, with the Sixers jumping out to a three games to one lead.
However, the Celtics managed to come back and win the series before defeating the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals.
Five out of seven games were won by two points or less.
The Sixers, led by Erving, Darryl Dawkins and Bobby Jones, won Game 1 after rookie Andrew Toney sank free throws with two seconds left.
Boston won game two behind Bird’s 34-point, 16-rebound performance.
A combined 41 points from Erving and Toney, plus a great defensive play by Bobby Jones sealed games three and four for the Sixers.
However, an 8-0 run in the final 1:51 of Game 5, last second free throws by Cedric Maxwell in Game 6 and a late Game 7 comeback gave the Celtics the series win.
Boston was led by Bird, Maxwell, Robert Parish, Tiny Archibald and Kevin McHale.
Two seasons later, the Sixers would have their own set of five star players.
7. Sixers Trade for Moses Malone
Nearly 20 years after their first big trade for a center, the Sixers struck another deal.
After initially matching the Sixers offer, the Houston Rockets traded center Moses Malone to the team prior to the 1982-1983 season.
Similarly to the 1981 Boston Celtics, the Sixers now had their own star-studded cast in Malone, Erving, Toney, Maurice Cheeks and Bobby Jones.
Malone led the Sixers to a 65-17 record in his first season with the Sixers, while helping the team win eight times in nine playoff appearances to advance to the NBA Finals.
Malone averaged 23.9 points with the Sixers from 1982-1986, as well as 13.4 rebounds in 302 starts over the time span.
Malone was also the MVP of the 1982-1983 season, his second consecutive year winning the award.
The Sixers made the playoffs every season with Malone and won 28 postseason games.
However, Malone’s first season with the team was not only one of the most memorable for the 76ers franchise but also one of the best in NBA history.
6. Julius Erving's Baseline Move
It seems as if Julius Erving saved his best moves for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Before he rocked the baby to sleep, Erving defied gravity in the 1980 NBA Finals.
In the fourth quarter of Game 4, Erving took the ball and drove past Mark Landsberger while making his way to the baseline.
From there, Erving proved that gravity had no effect on him as he rose up past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, took the ball from one side to the other and made the basket.
All while in mid-air.
From behind the backboard.
This play, plus the Sixers 105-102 series-tying victory gave fans at the Spectrum plenty of reasons to celebrate.
And made them a part of one of the most memorable moments in franchise history.
5. Sixers Trade for Wilt Chamberlain
In 1963, the city of Philadelphia saw basketball return when the Syracuse Nationals were relocated.
Two years later, the city saw Wilt Chamberlain return, as well.
In what is considered one of the best midseason trades in league history, the Sixers obtained Chamberlain halfway through the 1964-1965 season from the San Francisco Warriors.
The Sixers saw their win total increase each year during Chamberlain’s first three seasons with the team, going from 40 to 55, to 68 wins during the 1966-1967 season.
A season cemented in both the 76ers and NBA’s history.
With Chamberlain, the Sixers went 225-98 in four seasons and made it at least as far as the Eastern Division finals each season.
Chamberlain averaged 28 points during his time with the Sixers, from his acquisition during the 1964-1965 season through 1967-1968, as well as over 23 rebounds a game.
He was also MVP for three straight seasons while with the team.
Chamberlain’s void on the Sixers would cause the team to reach some historic lows before another great center helped the team reach success.
4. Iverson Steps Over Lue
Arguably one of the most memorable games and moments in 76ers franchise history.
In Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals, Iverson didn’t just use his notorious crossover to create separation from Tyronn Lue.
He didn’t just nail a fade away jumper with the shot clock winding down.
But he did provide Sixers fans with an image that is still remembered over a decade later.
After draining the shot, Iverson stepped over Lue (who had ended up on the ground following the shot) before running back down the court.
Iverson finished with 48 points, but more importantly, the Sixers won the game in overtime by a score of 107-101.
The Lakers had been undefeated in the playoffs up until this point and were heavily favored.
They ended up winning the series, but following Game 1, the Sixers had created an excitement in Philadelphia that had not been felt in sometime.
3. Sixers Draft Allen Iverson
June 26, 1996, may be one of the greatest days in franchise history.
With the No. 1 overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft, the 76ers selected Iverson out of Georgetown University.
Iverson had won Big East Rookie of the Year and was a two time Big East Defensive Player of the Year in two seasons with the Hoyas.
His list of achievements would not stop there.
Iverson would go on to win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award in 1997.
He was MVP in 2001. He was a 10-time All Star with the Sixers, winning MVP honors of the game twice. He was a four-time scoring champion.
He led the Sixers to first-round playoff victories against the Orlando Magic and Charlotte Hornets in the 1999 and 2000 playoffs, respectively.
He led the Sixers to the 2001 NBA Finals.
He’s scored 60 points in a game.
He’s made it known that practice is not a game.
From the 1996-1997 season through 2006-2007, Iverson averaged over 28 points with the Sixers, as well as over 30 points a game in 62 playoff appearances with the team.
The 6’0”, 165 pound-soaking-wet future Hall of Famer played 697 games in a Sixers uniform.
And not one of them will be forgotten.
2. 1983 NBA Championship
It turns out Moses Malone was truly the final piece.
In his third Finals appearance, Julius Erving finally got an NBA championship.
The 1982-1983 76ers team not only won the second championship in franchise history but is also considered one of the greatest teams the NBA has ever seen.
And when one looks at the numbers put up by its members, it’s easy to see why.
Erving averaged 21.4 points per game.
Malone, besides winning his second consecutive MVP award and being named MVP of the playoffs, averaged 24.5 points per game during the regular season and 26 points a night in the playoffs. His 15.3 rebounds a game led the league.
Andrew Toney averaged 19.7 points a game.
Maurice Cheeks put up 12.5 points a night while leading the team with 6.9 assists per game.
Bobby Jones won the league’s Sixth Man of the Year Award by averaging nine points to go with a 54.3 percent field-goal percentage.
Marc Iavaroni started 77 games, while Earl Cureton and Franklin Edwards each saw double-digit minutes off the bench, and Clint Richardson and Clemon Johnson also added contributions.
The team finished with a 65-17 record.
They swept the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in five games and swept the Los Angeles Lakers for their second title in franchise history.
One game shy of living up to Malone’s “fo’, fo’, fo’,” prediction.
One team that lives on as one of the most memorable.
1. 1967 NBA Championship
A 76ers championship set-up by the team acquiring a dominating center?
Wilt Chamberlain’s return to Philadelphia didn’t just improve the team’s win total. It led to the franchise’s first ever NBA championship.
Up until this point, the Boston Celtics had won eight straight titles from 1959-1966.
New head coach Alex Hannum had been the last coach to defeat the Celtics in the playoffs, when he was head coach of the St. Louis Hawks during the 1958 Finals.
He would also be the next head coach to defeat them.
After being told to pass more, Chamberlain, the league’s MVP, racked up 7.8 assists per game, third best in the league, while still averaging 24.1 points a night. This was, however, the first time in eight seasons that he didn’t win the scoring title.
His free-throw shooting didn’t help, either.
His 24.2 rebounds per game, however, led the league, while the 76ers team average of 125.2 points per game also found itself as the league’s best.
Chet Walker and Billy Cunningham averaged 19.3 and 18.5 points per game, respectively.
Luke Jackson managed 8.9 rebounds per game.
Hal Greer posted lines of 22.1 points in the regular season and 27.7 assists game in the playoffs.
Wali Jones and Larry Costello, before he was lost for the season, served as key reserves while Matt Guokas and Billy Melchionni saw time as rookies.
The team won 45 of its first 49 games, had a 28-2 record at home and finished with a record of 68-13.
They defeated the Cincinnati Royals in the Eastern Conference Semifinals before beating the Boston Celtics in five games to reach the finals, where they beat the San Francisco Warriors for the first championship in franchise history.
In 1980, as part of the NBA’s 35th anniversary, the 1966-1967 Sixers squad was voted as the best team in league history.
While their ranking among the league’s best teams is debatable, one aspect of their success is certain.
The 1966-1967 76ers team provided fans with one of the most memorable moments in franchise history.