The Philadelphia 76ers have begun a new era with the hiring of Doc Rivers as their new head coach.
Philadelphia fans have had plenty to celebrate over the last 60 years, but it will be up to Rivers to lead the 76ers back to the top of the standings – a place they have not held in nearly two decades.
In fact, the 76ers have won only two NBA championships since changing their name from the Syracuse Nationals in 1963. Their last world title came in 1983, and they have not won an Eastern Conference title since 2001.
That has not kept Philadelphia from being a headlining team over the years. Players like Julius Erving, Charles Barkley and Allen Iverson have kept the 76ers in the limelight.
Rivers is the new coach following the firing of Brett Brown, who had led the team for the last seven seasons.
Brown missed the playoffs his first four seasons (during the Sixers tanking years) before finally breaking through with a postseason appearance in 2018. The 76ers advanced to the second round that year and again in 2019 before being swept by the Boston Celtics in the first round of the this year’s postseason.
With a roster that includes top-of-the-line talent like Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Al Horford, hopes were much higher than a first-round elimination.
Rivers is a familiar name for 76ers fans. He coached the rival Celtics for 10 seasons and led them to the NBA title in 2008. He was available to the 76ers this fall because he was fired by the Los Angeles Clippers following their disappointing performance in the playoffs despite acquiring Kawhi Lenoard and Paul George last offseason.
An early stroke of trade luck
The franchise won its first NBA championship as the Syracuse Nationals in 1955, and it moved to Philadelphia before the 1963 season to replace the Warriors, who moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco, Calif.
Ironically, it was the Warriors who helped the 76ers win their first title in Philadelphia.
The now-San Francisco Warriors were hurting financially, so they traded all-time great Wilt Chamberlain to Philadelphia for several players and $150,000 cash. Chamberlain was a native of the City of Brotherly Love, so it was a pretty big deal for him to return.
Chamberlain led Philadelphia to an NBA title in 1967. Fittingly, the 76ers’ opponent in the NBA Finals was those same Warriors.
Following the 1968 season, Chamberlain began making noise about leaving the NBA for the American Basketball Association, so the 76ers traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Dr. J arrives
Philadelphia fell on hard times after that but got a boost in 1977 when it was presented with the opportunity to purchase the contract of Julius Erving from the ABA’s New York Nets, who needed to pay a $3.2 million expansion fee to the NBA, for $3 million.
The next season, the 76ers won the Eastern Conference title but fell to the Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA Finals. They also lost in the 1980 and 1982 NBA Finals before finally breaking through to win the championship in 1983, with Moses Malone and Erving leading the way.
Owners and General Manager
The franchise has been owned by Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment since 2017. The company also owns the NHL’s New Jersey Devils, English soccer team Crystal Palace FC, American Hockey League team Binghamton Devils and the Sixers’ NBA G League affiliate the Delaware Blue Coats.
The general manager is former 76ers player Elton Brand. Brand played for the club from 2008-12 and his final season in 2016. The two-time All-Star immediately stepped into a role as player development consultant with the 76ers after ending his playing career.
He followed that with a stint as the GM of the Blue Coats (formerly the Delaware 87ers) and was promoted to 76ers GM in 2018.
While Chamberlain and Erving may top the list of the club’s greatest players, no such list is complete without the inclusion of Allen Iverson.
The first overall pick in the 1996 NBA Draft, Iverson played for the 76ers from then until 2006. Known as “The Answer” and “AI,” Iverson thrilled basketball fans with his elite ball-handing, amazing scoring talent, and fearlessness going to the rim as the smallest guy on the court.
Iverson led the league in scoring four times while playing for Philadelphia and was named to the All-NBA First Team three times. In 2001, he was named the NBA MVP. That 2001 season was the closest Iverson came to lifting a trophy with Philadelphia. With the help of big man Dikembe Mutombo, the 76ers won the Eastern Conference title but lost to the Lakers in the NBA Finals.
Before Iverson, Charles Barkley led the 76ers to playoff wins. The power forward was a five-time All-NBA First Team member, including every year between 1988 and 1991. He led Philadelphia in rebounding and field goal percentage for seven consecutive seasons. He was also the leading scorer for six straight years.
Moses Malone played only five seasons with Philadelphia, but he still impressed. He was the Finals MVP in 1983 after winning the league MVP award during the regular season. He was also the MVP in 1982, putting up huge scoring and rebounding numbers.