Which NBA Legends Are in the 76ers All-Time Starting Five?
In case you need to be reminded, the team out in the Bay Area — you know, the team that won the 2016 NBA Championships — has its roots in Philadelphia. As with the Dodgers, Giants, and Athletics, the Warriors chose to leave the dreary East Coast in 1962 for the sunny (or sunnier) climes of San Francisco. As a great basketball city, Philadelphia couldn’t be without a pro team for long, so in 1963, the Syracuse Nationals packed up and left New York State to become the 76ers (aka the Sixers).
With red, white, and blue uniforms and an anthem that told fans, “You’ll love the spirit of the 76ers…,” the new Philadelphia franchise set out to reignite local interest, playing games at the fabled Palestra and Civic Center/Convention Hall. It wasn’t until the 1964-65 season that the NBA and its followers took notice; hometown hero Wilt Chamberlain was traded to the 76ers and led the squad to an NBA title in the 1966-67 season. This began a series of ups and downs, including a team that won more than 60 games a season and a season that saw the Sixers win only nine games.
In more than 50 seasons, the Philadelphia 76ers have had their share of superstars and role players. So, we assembled a dream team of the five starters and two sixth men from across Sixer history. They would certainly give any current team a game to remember.
C: Wilt Chamberlain
At 7-foot-2 and 275 pounds, it was not Wilt the Stilt’s size that led to his greatness — he was considered by some to be the greatest player of all time. Chamberlain, a Philadelphia native selected by the then-Philadelphia Warriors in 1959 in what used to be called a “territorial pick,” had the athleticism of a far smaller, agile man. His abilities to run up and down the court and use his size and strength allowed him to become the only player to average 30 points and 20 rebounds per game for his career.
When the Warriors moved to San Francisco, the Bay Area and Chamberlain never got along, and the former University of Kansas star was traded to the 76ers during the 1965 All-Star break. Thus began the first era of greatness for the newish Philadelphia basketball team. Chamberlain excelled at controlling the tempo of the game, and he was a teammate who brought the best out of his fellow Sixers during his second go-round in Philadelphia. His most memorable career accomplishments include a 100-point game in 1962 (with the Warriors) and three consecutive MVP titles (one during the team’s first title season).
In a trade that still pains longtime 76ers fans, Philadelphia traded Chamberlain to the Los Angeles Lakers in July 1968, ending the team’s dominance. Chamberlain played for the Lakers through the 1972-73 season, but became better known for his off-court “activities” including being considered a world-class lothario and receiving an invitation to fight Muhammad Ali after the 1971 playoffs.
PF: Charles Barkley
At a generous 6-foot-6 and 252 pounds, Charles Barkley epitomizes the 76ers ideal of persistence and tenacity. The former Auburn University star was the fifth pick in the 1984 NBA Draft, and had the good fortune to be mentored by Moses Malone (edged out of this list by the Round Mound of Rebound), who was a vital part of the team’s 1982-83 title season.
Barkley, named to the All-Rookie team his first season, became the team’s dominant force after Malone was traded to the Bullets before the 1986-87 campaign, and responded by winning the league’s rebounding title while averaging more than 20 points per game. In his eight years playing with the Sixers — before being traded to the Phoenix Suns — Barkley was the fourth all-time Sixer in points and third in scoring average and rebounds while leading the team in scoring for six consecutive years. Additionally, he was tops in rebounding and field-goal percentage for seven straight seasons.
Barkley’s time in a Sixers uniform was not without incident. While considered a household name in the city, he also had issues, such as a well-celebrated altercation with Bill Laimbeer along with a fight with a fan who attempted to spit on the player while shouting racial slurs. Barkley was traded to the Phoenix Suns before the 1992-93 season. In his first season there, he not only led his team to the NBA Finals, but was also named regular season MVP.
SF: Julius Erving
The man known simply as Dr. J is one of the best-known players to ever wear a Philadelphia 76ers uniform. While Julius Erving played on a number of Sixers teams that had stellar seasons (including the 1982-83 championship team), Dr. J’s freestyle improv act was better suited to his career as the face of the New York Nets during its time in the then-American Basketball Association, aka the high-styling ABA.
It was his celebrity and steady team play — rather than his acrobatic dunks from the baseline and behind-the-back, no-look passes — that make Erving more of a 76ers legend. In his 836 games in the NBA, Erving amassed 18,362 points with a 51% field goal average. Dr. J played in 11 consecutive All-Star games and was voted the league MVP in 1981. He was later elected to both the NBA and College Halls of Fame.
SG: Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson is remembered for a myriad of things, both on and off the court. As a Philadelphia 76er, he was perhaps the team’s all-time greatest shooting guard with a 27.6 points-per-game average over 12 years. He was the shortest and lightest player ever to be drafted first in the NBA, and he held the same physical distinction as an MVP winner for the 2000-01 season. For that near-championship season, Iverson singlehandedly led the Sixers to the NBA finals where they lost to the heavily favored Los Angeles Lakers.
Away from the hardwood, Iverson had a reputation as a malcontent, arguing with coaches and teammates. It took a coach of Larry Brown’s stature to turn a less-than-amicable relationship into one that would lead the team to several winning seasons.
Iverson’s interaction with law enforcement was not as easily resolved. What started as an incident at a Virginia bowling alley (which landed the high school Iverson in jail) continued throughout his playing days with charges that included assault and carrying a concealed weapon. Sadly, even with a career that earned him millions of dollars, Iverson is, according to some, out of money.
PG: Hal Greer
For those who had the pleasure of watching Hal Greer in his prime on black-and-white TV, the vision of No. 15 elegantly gliding down the court and launching a picture-perfect jump shot is an indelible image. A native of West Virginia and star at Marshall University, Greer was selected by the Syracuse Nationals with the 13th pick in the second round, and he came to the 76ers when the team relocated in 1963.
Earning the name “Mister Steady,” Greer’s calm approach to the game was the perfect complement to Chamberlain’s more flamboyant style during the team’s great years in the early ‘60s. The dependable guard holds numerous 76ers team records, including games played, points, two-point field goals, and field goal attempts. Greer played in 10 consecutive All-Star games and was elected to the NBA Hall of Fame.
On the Bench:
Nicknamed the “Kangaroo Kid,” Billy Cunningham is known for his superb playing and coaching career for the 76ers. A 1965 first-round pick out of North Carolina, Cunningham had an unprecedented leaping ability and ability to score off the bench, earning him a spot on the Sixers 1967 championship team. After nine seasons with the 76ers and two with the Carolina Cougars of the ABA, Cunningham returned to his original team as coach.
The former all-star forward was at the helm during the 76ers’ playoff runs in 1979-80 and 1981-82 before landing the title in 1982-83. In his own years playing, Cunningham averaged 20.8 points and 10 rebounds per game. His jersey, No. 32, was retired by the team as part of his dual role as star player and championship coach.
Another first-round pick (by Denver) from the University of North Carolina, Bobby Jones was the ultimate sixth man for the Philadelphia 76ers, noted for his strong defensive skills and quick scoring ability. In his eight years in Philadelphia — including a key role for the team’s 1982-83 title — Jones started only 123 of the 617 games he played wearing the red, white, and blue.
Jones came to the 76ers from Denver after the 1977-78 season (in exchange for George McGinnis). Coach Cunningham saw Jones as an off-the-bench catalyst and the former Tar Heel graciously accepted that role. Jones was named to the NBA’s all-defensive team eight times in his 12-year career (which included four ABA years), and he was the league’s first winner of its Sixth Man of the Year Award.