Philadelphia 76ers: 5 Best Players at Every Position in Franchise History
With NBA labor negotiations at a standstill, I've decided to take a trip down Philadelphia 76ers' memory lane in order to identify the five best players at each position in the franchise's storied history.
It was no easy task, but with little else to do thanks to the lockout, it was done. Enjoy!
As always, comments are welcome and appreciated.
PG No. 5: Jrue Holiday
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Holiday cracks this list on potential and talent alone.
While his NBA resume is not nearly as impressive as some former 76ers PGs, Holiday has the natural ability to finish as one of the greatest guards to ever don a Philadelphia jersey. His combination of tremendous vision, superb playmaking ability and lockdown defense is a rarity in today's NBA.
With another season under his belt, don't be surprised to see the young Holiday ascend into the ranks of the NBA's elite PGs when basketball resumes.
PG No. 4: Andre Miller
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During his relatively short stint with the Sixers, Andre Miller was among the NBA's most effective and efficient PGs. He averaged over 15 PPG and 7.0 APG during his three seasons in the City of Brotherly Love, helping 76ers fans move on from the departure of Allen Iverson.
Miller was a steadying force for the 76ers during a time of change and helped to shape the current state of the franchise.
PG No 3: Eric Snow
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Eric Snow was Mr. Consistent for the Philadelphia 76er teams of the late 1990s and early 2000s. He never made flashy plays, he rarely appeared on ESPN's Top Plays and he never lit up the box score. Snow simply got the job done the right way, night in and night out.
On the court, he was an exceptional leader. He ran Larry Brown's offense to perfection, making excellent decisions with the ball in his hand, always getting back on defense and fighting through numerous injuries (remember Snow's broken ankle during the team's 2001 playoff run?).
PG No. 2: Larry Costello
Costello was one of the NBA's most consistent all-around players at the PG position, providing the superb defense, on-court leadership and playmaking ability that helped propel the Sixers past the Celtics and into the annals of league history.
He was an anchor of arguably the greatest team in NBA historythe 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers.
PG No. 1: Mo Cheeks
There is little question Mo Cheeks is one of the greatest players in the storied history of the Philadelphia 76ers franchise.
During his time with the Sixers, Cheeks was one of the league's premiere defenders and floor generals, leading his team to three NBA Finals in four years. He wasn't a flashy or electrifying player by any stretch of the imagination, but Cheeks always managed to get the job done.
In a city that values hard work, dedication and a team-first attitude above all else, Cheeks quickly became a legend. He won the hard way, playing tough defense and enduring punishing physicality from opposing players. And, in true Cheeks style, he always managed to save his best for when it mattered most.
SG No. 5: Evan Turner
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Like Holiday, Turner cracks this list on potential alone. While he has accomplished very little in his NBA career thus far, the 20-year-old Turner possesses the natural talent to blossom into one of the league's best SGs in short order.
Turner's combination of size, speed, savvy and skill is rare. If he is provided with the proper coaching and given time to develop his skill set, I would not be surprised in the least to see Turner much higher on this list when his career is done.
But for now, he gets a tiny bit of recognition. Call it a wager that some day soon, he'll have the resume to back up my selection of him now.
SG No. 4: Jerry Stackhouse
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In three short seasons with the 76ers, the young Jerry Stackhouse was electric. He didn't play a lot of defense. He didn't share the ball too much. He wasn't really a leader or a floor general. But he could score.
When the Sixers drafted Allen Iverson in 1997, many around the NBA (including 76er management) thought Philadelphia would have one of the league's best backcourts. Unfortunately, everyone seemed to forget basketball is a game played with one ball, not two.
Ultimately, the whole thing fell apart, and Stackhouse was traded. But during his brief stint with the club, Stackhouse was one of the most dynamic playmakers the franchise had ever seen, at least until "The Answer" arrived.
SG No. 3: Andrew Toney
Nicknamed "The Boston Strangler," Andrew Toney was one of the best guards of his generation.
Playing in the 76er backcourt alongside NBA great Mo Cheeks, Toney was the ying to Cheeks' Yang. He scored in bunches, he played solid defense, he made amazing plays at both ends of the court and (as his nickname indicates) he saved his best performances for games against the Celtics.
Somehow, someway, Toney always managed to get it done when it mattered most. Just ask the Boston Celtics.
SG No. 2: Hal Greer
The 76er's Hal Greer was one of the NBA's best long-range shooters before it was popular. While he was certainly the beneficiary of Wilt Chamberlain's presence in the middle, his offensive talent was such that he was able to succeed regardless of who was on the court.
Greer managed to consistently shoot lights-out from beyond the arc, opening up the rest of the court for his teammates to make plays. While that strategy is quite common in the contemporary game, it's only because of the efforts of Greer many decades ago.
SG No. 1: Allen Iverson
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While he was certainly a divisive figure during his NBA tenure, there is no denying that "The Answer" was one of the best players of his generation. Iverson will likely go down as the best player in the history of the NBA under six feet tall and one of the best to never win an NBA title.
During his career in Philadelphia, there is no question Iverson left everything he had on the court, night in and night out. His play was electrifying; his passion was palpable. He was the spirit of Philadelphia made manifest. He was fearless. He was a little man who dominated a big man's game.
SF No. 5: Clarence Weatherspoon
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The comparisons between Weatherspoon and 76ers great Charles Barkley were undeniable. Both were undersized forwards who loved to rebound, pound the ball down low and talk trash on the court.
While Weatherspoon never developed into the dominant low-post force Barkley was, he certainly was not a bust. During his early years, he led the 76ers in rebounding and scoring. During his second season, he was Mr. Consistent, scoring 10 or more points in 80-of-82 games and recording 46 double-doubles.
While his exit from the City of Brotherly Love was botched by the 76ers organization, to leave him off this list. That would be a mistake. During his time in Philadelphia, Weatherspoon was a model of consistent excellence. Had he been used properly, there is little doubt he'd be higher on this list.
SF No. 4: Andre Iguodala
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The "Other A.I." may not be a dynamic future Hall of Famer in the mold of his predecessor, but Iguodala has been a phenomenal player for the 76ers for the past seven seasons. "Iggy" is perhaps the NBA's best "pure" point-forward, an elite defender and an effective scorer.
Despite his shortcomings in clutch situations, Iguodala has established himself as one of the best players at his position in the NBA, which is no small feat. For that alone, he deserves a place on this list.
SF No. 3: Joe Fulks
"Jumpin" Joe Fulks was an offensive juggernaut who did little else on the court. He is often referred to as the first of the high-scoring forwards, a player who revolutionized the way the small forward position was played and paved the way for future greats like Dr. J.
Fulks was an early pioneer of the jump shot, the drive-and-dish play and has since been named one of the members of the NBA Silver Anniversary Team.
SF No. 2: Paul Arizin
"Pitchin" Paul Arizin is generally regarded as one of the best players in NBA history. On the offensive end, Arizin was a prolific scorer who could do it all with the basketball in his hands. He possessed an exceptionally good jump shot, stellar court vision and a natural playmaking proclivity.
On the defensive end, Arizin was one of the best rebounders of his day, capable of grabbing every ball in sight despite his relatively small size (6'4").
SF No. 1: Julius Erving
While Dr. J's play in Philadelphia was not quite as impressive as his earlier play in the ABA, he was still the best wing in the NBA, bar none. Erving was a key piece in the Sixers' 1983 championship team, won an MVP in 1981 and revolutionized the wing position.
In short: Dr. J was a once-in-a-generation talent who changed the way basketball was played. He's one of the best players to ever put on an NBA jersey.
PF No. 5: Elton Brand
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If Elton Brand can remain healthy and productive for the next few seasons, he will likely move up on this list and move into Sixer lure. The former Duke star and first overall pick is an undersized PF with a well-developed offensive skill set. Brand possesses a nice touch on his mid-range jumper, a large repertoire of low-post moves and tremendous passing ability for a big man.
In addition to his physical skills, Brand has developed into a strong leader and mentor for the upstart 76ers, helping to develop the team's young core. If he can continue his strong on-court play while mentoring the rest of the roster, Brand will soon earn a spot among the best Sixers of the 2000s.
PF No. 4: Derrick Coleman
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Derrick Coleman is yet another example of a talented player who was misused by the 76ers organization in the mid-1990s.
The former first overall pick was certainly productive in Philadelphia, averaging over 17 PPG and 9.5 RPG in his first stint with the franchise. Coleman returned to Philadelphia for the 2001-2002 NBA season, posting 15.1 PPG and 8.8 RPG.
A talented forward with a soft outside shot and a nice offensive skill set, Coleman was never quite comfortable with the Sixers, for one reason or another. Despite that, he was able to post a number of strong seasons and remains one of the better players at his position in the team's history.
PF No. 3: Billy Cunningham
Cunningham was affectionately nicknamed "the Kangaroo Kid" for his impressive leaping ability. Despite standing only 6'6" tall, Cunningham managed to average more than 12 rebounds per game for four consecutive seasons. Impressive, to say the least.
He was also a career 21.2 PPG scorer who managed to chip in 4.3 APG. Not too bad for a sixth man on the 1967 NBA Championship Team.
And after he was done jumping out of the gym, Cunningham returned to Philadelphia to coach the 76ers to the 1983 NBA title.
PF No. 2: Charles Barkley
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The Round Mound of Rebound was simply one of the best players of his generation.
Chuck could do it all: he was the one of the best rebounders in the NBA, he could score with just about anyone in the low post, he could play shut-down defense and he could tell you how good he was all game long.
The fact that Sir Charles managed to achieve all of that playing as a power forward with an obvious vertical disadvantage is a testament to his skill, determination and athleticism.
PF No. 1: Dolph Schayes
Dolph Schayes was one of the NBA's first true superstars, a player who managed to lead his team into the playoffs in 15 of his 16 seasons. Schayes was a 12-time NBA All-Star, 12-time All-NBA selection, Rookie of the Year in 1949 and an NBA Champion (1955).
When he retired in 1964, Schayes held the NBA records for career scoring (19,249 points), career games played (1,059), longest consecutive games played (706 games), career minutes played, career fouls committed and career free-throws made.
He has since been named one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players of all-time (1996) and a member of the NBA's 25th Anniversary Team (1970).
C No. 5: Samuel Dalembert
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While this may surprise some long-time 76ers fans, it shouldn't.
During his time in Philadelphia, Dalembert was a productive player, averaging over eight points and eight rebounds per game while playing excellent defense in the middle. He may not be the defensive presence a player like Dikembe Mutombo was, but he did play eight seasons in Philadelphia to Mutombo's two.
All in all, Dalembert was a solid, if not spectacular center for the 76ers. He may not have been the best center in franchise history, but he was certainly consistently good.
C No. 4: Darryl Dawkins
The "Chocolate Thunder" was one of the better centers of his day, posting strong numbers despite relatively limited playing time on a deep 76ers roster. His rough-and-tumble style of play, fearless attitude and willingness to play physical in the low post endeared him to Sixers fans, as did his penchant for monster dunks.
Dawkins may not have been a life-long Sixer, but he was certainly one of the most memorable players of his day. His impact is still apparent in the NBA today, where players now dunk on breakaway rims thanks to Dawkins' shattering of two backboards in 1979.
C No. 3: Neil Johnson
Neil "Gabby" Johnson is another member of the Philadelphia 76ers who was overshadowed by his much-publicized teammate. In Johnson's case, that teammate was Paul Arizin.
Like Arizin, Johnston was a prolific scorer (he led the NBA in scoring from 1952-1955) who could play exceptionally good defense. During his eight-season NBA career (all with the Sixers), Johnston appeared in six NBA All-Star Games, was a five-time member of the All-NBA team and won an NBA title in 1956.
He has since been enshrined in the NBA Hall of Fame and the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame.
C No. 2: Moses Malone
While Moses Malone was only a Sixer for a short time, his impact on the franchise's history is still apparent in the rafters today. During his tenure in Philadelphia, Malone helped the team win an NBA title in 1983, won an MVP award and managed an NBA Finals MVP as well.
In short: Malone was a complete monster in the middle for the 76ers. He played excellent defense, snagged every rebound around him and scored. A lot.
C No. 1: Wilt Chamberlain
Was there ever any doubt?
While Malone's four-year run in Philadelphia was impressive, Chamberlain's time in the City of Brotherly Love may be the most dominant four-year period in the history of the NBA.
Simply put, Wilt was unstoppable. He was a monster in the middle capable of imposing his will on one of the greatest to ever play the game in Bill Russel.
Quite simply, there was no one quite like Wilt.