This appears on nba.com
by rick olivares
I grew a fan of the Philadelphia 76ers. They were like an urban legend. A Sports Illustrated writer once said of them that the 1970s team that featured Dr. J, World B. Free, Chocolate Thunder, and George McGinnis was like the Wild West. They blew into arenas daring teams to beat them. They dunked the ball like no other team and they were showtime before the Los Angeles Lakers co-opted the title.
Back in the pre-magazine specialty shop and cable age, we only spoke about them in whispers with one story growing with every re-telling. Why not? There were no highlights to watch. Just grainy pictures in the newspaper and the prose of some sportswriter trying to write poetry when describe the Doctor make his house calls or when that citizen of Lovetron would name his dunks.
But Sixers were the heartbreak kids losing to Portland and Los Angeles in the NBA Finals.
The whispers then that the Doctor could not keep his promises.
Then they brought in Moses who led them to the Promised Land. “Fo, fo, fo” became part of NBA lore. And the Doctor had finally made good on bringing a championship to Philadelphia. Before the MLB’s Phillies won the World Series in 2008, the last major North American title to go to the City of Brotherly Love was the Sixers in 1983. That’s how long the drought and the heartbreak lasted.
However, if you were a Sixers fan then it broke your heart that they tried to trade Erving even before they jettisoned Moses to the Washington Bullets.
But you remained hopeful because they brought in this fat kid who could dunk and rebound like nobody’s business. Charles Barkley was cut from Bobby Knight’s 1984 US Olympic squad but the moment he joined the Sixers, we knew he was special.
The trade for Erving never materialized. Doc retired. Bobby Jones and Mo Cheeks retired. Billy Cunningham retired leaving the keys to the squad with his former assistant and Philly teammate Matt Guokas.
And then it all fell sour.
Since that Sixers triumvirate all retired while playing only in a Philly jersey (the ABA excluded in Erving’s and Jones’ case).
Last Saturday, the Sixers retired Allen Iverson’s number #3. It was the only highlight of the night as Washington blew out the rebuilding Philadelphia team.
Looking at the eight retired number atop the Wells Fargo Center, Iverson joined Sixers greats in Hal Greer, Cunningham, Jones, Erving, Wilt Chamberlain, Maurice Cheeks, and Barkley. Of those players, only Greer, Cunningham, Erving, and Jones played their entire NBA career in a Philadelphia uniform.
In a perfect world, Chamberlain, Cheeks, Barkley, and Iverson would have played their entire careers with Philadelphia. I understand that trades are all part of the game or business as some would put it.
Even the great Lakers teams of the 1980s, it was only Magic Johnson and James Worthy who played their entire careers with Los Angeles.
On the other hand, I cannot fathom how Philadelphia had such a difficult time finding the right players to complement Barkley or even Iverson. Why is it that the Lakers always managed to fleece the other teams of their centers – Chamberlain from Philadelphia (won a title with LA), Shaquille O’Neal from Orlando (won three titles in LA), Pau Gasol from Memphis (won two titles in a Lakers tank top), and Dwight Howard from Orlando.
When Phoenix got Barkley, he immediately turned a good Suns team into title contenders. They went to the Finals only to stumble right into the path of that ultimate heartbreaker Michael Jordan; he who bumped and thumped the duo of Bump and Thump.
Was that Sixers line-up of 2000-01 that featured Iverson, Dikembe Mutombo, Raja Bell, Aaron McKie, and Theo Ratliff going to beat that Lakers team of Shaq, Kobe Bryant, Robert Horry, Ho Grant, Rick Fox, Brian Shaw, and Slava Medvendenko (haha I am kidding right there)?
In recent years, they’ve had some really good players in Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday, Louis Williams, and Evan Turner. None of them are wearing a Philly uniform anymore. Save for Iguodala who played eight years for the franchise, the others weren’t around that long enough to even be considered a Sixers star.
They have been forever in rebuilding mode that even Danny Granger who was traded for Turner spurned them.
On Allen Iverson night, the team wore patches that said, “Allen Iverson. Sixer forever”. Yeah, you become a star in Philadelphia. You can’t get ahead too much because you don’t have a team to compete. The brotherly love that you first felt becomes brotherly hate then you get traded. So much for the forever part. Then when all is said and done and forgiven, they trot you out and hang your number to the rafter. Hey, the Love statue in John F. Kennedy Plaza ha got to mean something, right?
It’s all good. But I want a Sixers team that can compete.