The Philadelphia 76ers are one of the most historic teams in the history of the league. When the BAA became the NBA in 1949-50, they added six teams. Of those, only two — the Sixers and the Hawks — are still in existence.
They weren’t known as such then, though. The Sixers started off as the Syracuse Nationals, and the Hawks were originally the Tri-City Blackhawks.
So, having dropped that trivia on you, from 65 years of history to choose from, who is the all-time starting five for the Sixers?
Point Guard: Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson gets disrespected by modern analytics. One thing that we can become guilty of as NBA fans is judging a player from one era based on the standards of the next. For what he did, in the time he did it, Iverson was purely amazing.
On a personal note, I loved watching this little guy play. It always reminded me of a pinball machine. Everyone else seemed stationary around him. He’d go into the paint quicker than light, get bonked around from bumper to bumper, and somehow when it was all over, the score would go up. Bing, bing, bing, bing goes the pinball machine.
When all was said and done, Iverson racked up 24,368 points and 5,624 assists. And somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,164 pairs of ankles, though, that’s an unofficial stat.
He might not have been the most efficient player in history, but those who focus on such things miss how purely entertaining that man was. At least one play a game you’d almost have to laugh out loud as some poor victim of his was picking himself off the floor, wondering what just happened.
Shooting Guard: Hal Greer
Hal Greer was as different from Iverson in personality as he was in style, but those two differences would mesh together quite well. While Iverson was flashy and breaking down defenses, Greer was a low-key guy who drained jumpers and in today’s vernacular, stretched the court.
His NBA.com bio elucidates:
If Chamberlain was the team’s go-to guy, then Greer was its quarterback — the man who made the action happen. But he wasn’t flashy or flamboyant and didn’t attract much attention from the media. In fact, one Herald-Tribune sportswriter claimed that “if there were an award given for a player who is most respected by basketball insiders, while getting the minimum public appreciation, Greer could win hands down.”
One of Greer’s strong points was his jump shot. His favorite spot to hit from was inside the top of the key. His one-time coach, Alex Hannum, said Greer could sink that shot about 70 percent of the time and encouraged him to take it whenever he had the opportunity. “Hal’s quickness enables him to free himself for the moment of daylight that he needs,” Hannum said. “He’s so good on his jumper that it startles you when he misses.”
In his career, he scored 21,586 points and had 4,540 dimes, all with the Sixers. As such, he’s the franchise scoring leader. Between him and Iverson, that’s a total of almost 46,000 points and over 10,000 assists in your backcourt. That’s a lot of scoring.
Small Forward: Julius Erving
Julius “Dr. J.” Erving is one of the premier above-the-rim players in the history of the league. He won the ABA dunk contest with a famous launch from the free throw line, but frankly, his exhibition antics paled in comparison to what he did in-game.
The things he did to other grown men was just downright ego wrecking. This wasn’t a celebration of centers dunking on guards like we have today. He made 7-footers look bad in front of their moms and wives.
Because of that, Ewing’s ability to do things with the ball was marvelous. His pass fakes were just silly because of his ability to cling to the ball with just one hand. Or else, he’d do spectacular whirly-windmilly things with it under the rim that would leave defenders wondering where the ball went until it came crashing down on top of their head
Ewing is the only player ever to win both the ABA and NBA MVP. He scored 30,026 points as a professional basketball player and won championships in both leagues. He’s one of just three players — the other two being Karl Malone and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — with 30,000 points, 10,000 boards and 5,000 dimes.
All told, that’s 75,000 points and 15,000 assists from your three perimeter players. And between the Doctor and the Answer, you have a cure for just about anything ails you.
Power Forward: Charles Barkley
Charles Barkley is one of the greatest players to never win a ring. And while he wasn’t always the most popular person in Philadelphia, he’s the greatest power forward they’ve ever had.
He’s third in franchise history in Win Shares, fifth in points and third in rebounds.
As great as his career was, it was acrimonious with the team from the start. Barkley told Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated the story of how he was drafted:
Back in my day we had a hard salary cap so you could not go over the salary cap like you can today and the Sixers had the No. 5 pick in the draft. I left college after three years and in fairness, I was fat in college. I played at 300 pounds. The Sixers called me a month before the draft and said, “We want you to get down to 285 pounds and come in before the draft.” So I get down to 283 and the night before we fly into Philly my agent said, “You do know if the Sixers draft you they are going to give you $75,000, right?” I said, “Dude, I didn’t leave college for $75,000. We have a problem.” He said, “You weigh about 283 now. What do you want to do? You beat their weight limit.” I said, “Let’s go out.”
So we went to Dennys and I had like two Grand Slam breakfasts. We went to lunch and I had like two big barbeque sandwiches. That night we went to a big steakhouse. The next morning I had two more Grand Slam breakfasts and when we flew to Philly, I weighed 302. I was like, Thank goodness, the Sixers are not going to draft me. So when you look at my face when commissioner [David] Stern says ‘With the fifth pick in the draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select Charles Barkley,’ I was like, ‘Oh, sh–.’ When people go back and look at me walking, and they see that awful burgundy suit, everybody else is happy and Charles isn’t happy. But it worked out great. The most important person in my basketball career was Moses Malone and he got me down to under 250 pounds and the rest is history.
After eight years and a love-hate relationship with the City of Brotherly Love, he forced a trade to Phoenix. He made the All-Star Game his last six years there, averaging 25.5 points, 11.9 boards and 4.0 assists.
The Sixers guards and forwards combined for 100,007 points in their careers.
Center: Dolph Schayes
I struggled with this one quite a bit. Wilt Chamberlain was an easy choice, but he spent more of his career, and his best years, with the Warriors, be that in Philadelphia or Golden State. As such, I chose him for the Warriors all-time team.
I considered Moses Malone, who spent four years with the Sixers, but I chose him for the Houston Rockets, where he spent five years. Either Chamberlain or Malone would be a logical fit here, and no one could really call them wrong.
But there’s one center who belongs distinctly and uniquely to the franchise, and that’s Dolph Schayes. He was one of the NBA’s original great players.
And he was kind of tough. He told Sixers.com about how he played through a broken wrist in his shooting hand and a cast.
It was an incomplete fracture of a small bone in the wrist, so they were able to put a lightweight cast on it and seal it with a rubberized cover that allowed me to play. My game, I was a scorer and had a good outside shot. I would hit a few shots on the outside and then drive to the basket, but that was all mostly righty. When I broke my wrist, which was my shooting hand, I decided I would become a lefty, and played left-handed for six weeks while the thing healed.
When the cast was taken off I was able to be ambidextrous, and that increased my efficiency 1000%. I guess you could say that when I broke my wrist, it was a good break for me because of what it added to my game.
And how he worked on his free throw shooting:
I used to have a skills camp, and I would practice at the camp all summer long on a rim within a rim. Regulation rims are 18 inches in diameter, while the basketball is 10. So I crafted a 14-inch rim and attached it inside the normal rim. All summer, I would shoot on the smaller rim, which made me concentrate more and learn to aim for the very middle of the basket. When I took the 14-inch rim away, the normal rim seemed huge. That increased my foul shooting by at least 10%.
He was something of a “Tim Duncan” of his era, leading the Sixers to 15 playoffs in 16 seasons. Maybe Schayes wouldn’t be as dominant in today’s NBA, but he’s one of the guys who brought the league from its infancy to the ’60s. And with his work ethic and commitment and winning, he’d find a way to help this eclectic group of personalities and scorers fit together.
Previous all-time starting fives: Bulls, Pistons, Thunder-Sonics, Magic, Mavericks, Heat, Lakers, Wizards, Pacers, Raptors, Knicks, Bucks, Nuggets, Celtics, Grizzlies, Rockets, Pelicans-Hornets-Jazz, Clippers, Jazz, Spurs, Suns, Kings, Cavaliers, Hawks, Nets, Hornets, Timberwolves, Warriors, Trail Blazers