Philadelphia 76ers: 25 Greatest Moments in Franchise History
What was the greatest moment in Philadelphia 76ers basketball history? Was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar part of it? When and where did it occur, how did it happen and why is the moment No. 1?
Great moments in a team’s history are to fans what food and water are to families.
The Philadelphia 76ers have had some very good moments in their 48-year history in terms of achievement, highlight plays, front office decisions and other amazing occasions contributing to the legacy of NBA basketball in the City of Brotherly Love.
Like it, love it or loathe it, here is my compilation of the 25 greatest.
25. Syracuse Nationals Become Philadelphia 76ers (1963)
Be honest, the team nickname 1776ers isn’t as catchy as the Nationals, Ben Franklins, Richard Allens, 63ers or the 76ers. Nothing important enough happened in 1876 or 1976.
Being a birthplace of America’s freedom from England and the site where our Declaration of Independence was signed, Philadelphia has a most fitting NBA nickname. The instant “76ers” was chosen, it gave Philly a moment for life, as Nicki Minaj would probably say.
24. Head Coach Doug Collins Leads the Team Back to the Playoffs
I’m sure Collins prayed that he could have the feeling for life after the Sixers clinched a playoff berth last season.
When he became the franchise's head coach, he brought new life and took the team to the postseason for the first time since the 2008-09 season.
It’s always an exciting time when a former player becomes the head coach of his old team. It was fun to see an ex-Sixer get it done Billy Cunningham style. Now, expectations and excitement to see if Collins can repeat Cunningham’s success could run higher for the upcoming season than at any time since Larry Brown’s days.
23. Larry Brown Takes the Reins (1997-2003)
The hiring of the well-traveled Brown provided a moment of hope for a franchise suffering like a camel in the desert from championship thirst but being fed in a mirage.
The barrage of wins Brown’s teams posted helped Philly solve some of its most puzzling questions such as how to win more than 40 games in two seasons. Having “The Answer,” Allen Iverson, didn't hurt.
22. 76ers Upset Orlando Magic (1999)
A.I. and the Sixers hurt the No. 1-seeded Magic after the lockout shortened 1998-99 season commenced. Philadelphia was the No. 6 seed in the combative Eastern Conference.
The 76ers knocked off Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway and the Shaq-less Magic, but it was Philly's first shining moment in the playoffs since 1991. Minaj was proud.
21. Charles Barkley: From Alabama to City of Brotherly Love
Drafted in 1984, Barkley joined Moses Malone and Dr. J as a Sixers triumvirate. No, not 666.
Along with Maurice Cheeks, though, they formed the core of one of the NBA's most bedeviling teams for opponents.
Speaking of cheeks, Minaj has nothing now on tele-tubbies Rick Mahorn and Barkley.
A powerfully built but short power forward that dribbled like a guard and skied like a light engine plane, "Round Mound of Rebound" Barkley played with Philadelphia until 1992 and became one of the NBA's most momentous players.
20. Billy Cunningham Becomes Head Coach
Cunningham, far left, belongs in this Kodak moment with former North Carolina Tar Heels greats Roy Williams, Dean Smith, James Worthy and Bob McAdoo.
Cunningham was 34 years old when he became head coach in 1977. He eventually led his former team to several franchise landmark wins in the Eastern Conference.
Billy C. is probably not, however, a Nicki Minaj fan. He probably rides for Li’l Kim.
19. Allen Iverson Gets Drafted (1996)
After sliding into playoff oblivion as a franchise with many riddles in the front office and on the court, with the first pick in 1996, the Sixers found their "Answer" in the talented hip-hopster, A.I.
The team had won the lottery after winning just 40 games from 1995-1997. The 18-win 1995-96 season was the franchise's second-worst ever.
Drafting Iverson turned out to be a hip Sixers’ moment for life. His hopping rookie season provided more great moments than unanswered questions. His duet with Minaj was slammed before it started.
18. Darryl Dawkins Arrives in the City of Brotherly Love
The question of whether or not Darryl Dawkins was from another planet was finally answered the moment NBA public address announcers started saying so during player introductions.
Dawkins was drafted out of an Orlando, Fla., high school with 1975's No. 5 overall draft pick. Neither Philly nor the NBA has been the same since.
17. Moses Malone Gets Called to Lead Philly to Promised Land
Since Moses arrived in 1982 to lead the Children of the 76ers to the Promised Land before moving on, the city has been waiting for its basketball Messiah.
Not known for being strong of tongue, similar to the Bible's Moses, Malone's actions spoke louder than words. He was one of the most rugged centers in NBA history and a Philadelphia favorite “fo,’ fo,’ “fo’” life.
16. Wilt Chamberlain Becomes a 76er
Philly's favorite basketball native son has to be Wilt “The Big Dipper” Chamberlain.
He grew up in the heart of Phil-Town and left Overbrook High School to attend the University of Kansas. After killing every female Jayhawk on campus, he took his skills around the world with the Harlem Globetrotters before joining the Philadelphia Warriors.
After the Warriors moved and he joined the 76ers, it was an amazing moment for the city. Philly’s ladies haven’t been the same since those smashing events happened.
15. "Chocolate Thunder" Strikes a Backboard Down in a Single Blow
Chamberlain never smashed a backboard like Dawkins did in 1979. Dawkins’ first rim-wrecking dunk was the sound of glass breaking heard around the world.
Opposing players worldwide began to view Dawkins as an untouchable sort of nighttime monster not to be reckoned with even in dreams. If players dreamed about challenging Dawkins in the lane, then they woke up, slapped themselves and apologized.
Dawkins didn't want to walk in Chamberlain's shoes because Dawkins's sneaker size was probably bigger.
14. Darryl Dawkins Destroys His 2nd Backboard in 1979-80 Season
Darryl "The Bigger the Backboard the Bigger the Peeling" Dawkins provided the basketball world with another moment for life after he destroyed his second NBA rim.
Broken glass in the paint: check. Rim on the floor: check. Commissioner Larry O’Brien threatened to take some of Dawkins’s check if he broke another backboard. Breakaway rims were soon installed by the NBA.
13. Dr. J's Windmill Dunk on the Checking Michael Cooper
Almost dunking Michael Cooper along with the ball through a breakaway rim, Dr. J's play is one of the most famous moments in NBA history. The still image of Erving cradling the ball for that scintillating steal-dunk is worthy of the next NBA logo.
The dazzling dunk went down on Jan. 5, 1983, in the final minutes of a game Philly won by two. It showed the mighty Lakers that Philly was a very serious threat. It seemed like Cooper checked himself and tried to avoid the posterization.
12. Allen Iverson Wins NBA Scoring Title: Party Like 1998-1999
Known as a poster player for little men with hops, Iverson averaged 26 points per game—buckets enough to make him the NBA’s 1999 scoring king. His shining moment made him the second 76er to win it and incredibly the first since Wilt.
Iverson won four total (1999, 2001-2, 2005) and provided many more electrifying instants for Philly’s faithful.
11. Julius Erving, George McGinnis, Caldwell Jones and World B. Free
Electrifying talents from the ABA, Erving, McGinnis, Jones and draft pick World B. Free formed what was cited by Dick Schaap, in a 1976 moment of clarity, as the most talented team in NBA history.
Erving, Doug Collins and McGinnis played in the 1977 All-Star Game on February 13 in MECCA Arena (Milwaukee). The East won, and Dr. J got the game's MVP.
The 1976-77 season made Philadelphia feel so alive.
10. Hal Greer Sets the Franchise’s Career Scoring Record
Hal Greer had many shining times, and he retired after scoring 21,586 points. That very moment made him king of the Sixers' all-time leading scorers.
He passed Dolph Schayes who posted over 18,000 points in his career. Both are members of the 50th Anniversary NBA All-Time Team announced in 1996—another one of the franchise’s all-time moments. Greer played his whole career with the Nationals-Sixers (1958-1973).
9. Moses Malone Becomes 76ers' 2nd of 2 NBA MVPs in the 1980s
One dozen years after Greer's last season, Moses’ most memorable moment in Philly occurred when he led the team out of the wilderness to the Promised Land as NBA MVP.
The basketball gods soon after called Moses and took him away to the Washington Bullets.
The Sixers truly must be savoring Malone's 1983 moments for life; they have yet to have another center like him and haven’t won another NBA Finals.
8. Dr. J Wins 1981 MVP: Franchise’s 4th
Dr. J was just the second Sixer to be titled NBA MVP. When he soaked up the moment, Doc became the first 76er to get the honor since Chamberlain in 1968.
In 1979, he'd won the Academy Award for Best Actor in the classic film: The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh. The winner was actually Dustin Hoffman for Kramer vs. Kramer, but Doc should have won in it, I believe.
7. Wilt Chamberlain Wins Unbelievable 3rd NBA MVP
In 1968, Academy Award worthy Chamberlain won his fourth and final NBA MVP award. It was his third straight NBA MVP as a Sixer.
It was a proud moment for Philadelphia and especially the 76ers. It later made him Mr. Phillywood as he landed a role in the classic film, Conan the Barbarian. Chamberlain was classic.
6. 2001 Eastern Conference Championship: The Answer Replied
The 2000-1 team, led by A.I., became barbarians—Beasts of the East—while winning the conference championship.
The banner ended the longest drought in the city's NBA history. It had been 18 years since Philadelphia's last Eastern Conference crown.
5. 1981-82 Eastern Conference Champions Wow Bostonians
The Sixers again overcame and slid the defending NBA champions—the bloody but kingly Boston Celtics—out of the way to advance to the NBA Finals.
While the Sixers were beating the Leprechauns in Game 7 at Boston, Celtics fans began chanting "Beat L.A!" "Beat LA!"
It was an incredible moment in NBA history and the Sixers were right there. They were not right there with L.A. in the 1982 Finals.
4. NBA Eastern Conference Championship: 1979-80 Season
The 1979-80 team won the franchise's third of six Eastern Conference championships—again over Boston—and again fell to the Lakers in the Finals.
The Sixers featured Darryl Dawkins and Caldwell Jones in a powerful frontcourt rotation, while Erving, Maurice Cheeks, Mike Bibby, Bobby Jones and Lionel Hollins were in their primes.
The following season, Andrew "The Boston Strangler" Toney joined the team from a tiny university named Southwestern Louisiana. Those days were some of the best in 76ers’ lore.
3. 1977 Eastern Conference Championship
Toney wasn't a Sixer, yet, when Erving led Philly to a 50-win season and their second Eastern Conference Finals crown.
They took a 2-0 NBA Finals lead over the Portland Trail Blazers.
It was a great moment until the NBA Finals brawl of all brawls broke out. To me, it still ranks as better viewing than the Knicks-Miami fight when Jeff Van Gundy was holding onto an irate Alonzo Mourning's leg.
The Sixers' tempers ran too hot in the 1977 Finals. After the brawl, the Sixers faded in the series, but not in spirit. They made it back to the Finals in 1980, 1982 and 1983.
2. 1967 NBA Championship: 1st for 76ers
1967's Walter A. Brown Trophy (now the Larry O'Brien Trophy) went to the 76ers—the victors in Philly's first NBA Finals appearance since the Warriors beat the Fort Wayne Pistons in 1956.
After 1956, the Celtics dominated the Eastern Conference by appearing in the next 10 NBA Finals. So, Philadelphia bookended the Celtics run by winning in 1956 and 1967.
1. 1983 NBA Championship: Winning Meant Revenge Against a Nemesis
After Malone and the 76ers disposed of the Lakers in 1983, it brought a measure of revenge for the 1980 and 1982 Finals defeats suffered at the hands of L.A.
It was the second NBA Finals Trophy for the 76ers, and it was the last one to be named the Walter Brown Trophy. Starting in 1984, the Finals Trophy was named after Larry O'Brien.
The 1983 victory came in the Sixers’ 20th year in Philly. Other than Boston and L.A. in the 1980s, only the 76ers won an NBA Finals.
It’s now time to 86 this show. I hope you enjoyed my list of the Top 25 moments in 76ers’ history.
Contact Lake Cruise at Lakecruise@att.net.