Written by Garrett Catalana – @GarrettCatalana
The Philadelphia 76ers have been one of the most successful franchises in the NBA during the team’s 52-year history in the City of Brotherly Love which includes two championships, Hall of Famers, superstars, and many playoff appearances. I am recognizing and ranking the best five 76ers players at each of the five positions in basketball: point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center.
1) Four factors went into play in creating this list: personal statistics, team success, longevity, and impact on the team and the city of Philadelphia.
2) Players are only ranked by their playing time in Philadelphia & not for any other teams in the NBA (ie Dikembe Mutombo)
3) Players who primarily played with the Syracuse Nationals (1946-1963) are not included on this list, so players like Dolph Schayes, Red Kerr, Lee Shaffer, Archie Clark, and Larry Costello will not appear in the ranking.
4) Most of the players who were selected were involved in the three most successful periods in 76ers basketball: 1964-1971, 1975-1987, and 1998-2003.
Without further ado, here is the list:
– The most decorated group on this list, in terms of the group as a whole, the small forwards in Sixers history have provided skills that have translated to wins, including championships. All five have provided versatility, excellent defense, and a hard-working mentality. These five provided highlight-reel ability, held high basketball IQs, and were some of the greatest athletes the NBA has ever seen.
1) Julius Erving (11 seasons [all with PHI], 1976-1987)
MPG: 34.3; PPG: 22.0; FG%: 51%; RPG: 6.7, SPG: 1.8, APG: 3.9
Resume: 1981 NBA MVP, 11-time All-Star, 5-time All-NBA 1st Team, 2-time All-NBA 2nd Team, appeared in four NBA Finals (1977, 1980, 1982, 1983), NBA Champion (1983), member of the NBA’s 50th Anniversary Team, No. 6 retired by the 76ers
– In 1976, then Sixers-GM Pat Williams approached the new Sixers owner, Fitz Dixon, and told him about Julius Erving. The ABA icon was in a contract dispute with the New Jersey Nets and Williams felt like he had a chance to acquire the Doctor. Dixon wasn’t a rabid basketball fan, so he told Williams, “Tell me, Pat, who is Julius Erving?” Williams promptly replied, “He is the Babe Ruth of basketball and it would take $6 million to get him.” That was enough for Dixon to say yes and Julius Erving was a 76er. Dr. J became perhaps the coolest player in the history of the NBA. No one had more style, flashiness, and charisma than the Doctor. No one had a greater influence on the game than he did. In his first season in Philadelphia, Dr. J led the 76ers to the NBA Finals, taking the NBA by storm with his tremendous dunking ability. While he gained many accolades during his career, like All-Star appearances, All-NBA selections, and the MVP trophy in 1981, Erving was missing his championship. After coming up short three times in the NBA Finals, Dr. J and the 76ers finally got over the hump in 1983. His legacy was sealed as one of the greatest players to ever play the game. His greatest highlight as a Sixer was his Rock the Baby to Sleep dunk against the Los Angeles Lakers, considered possibly the greatest dunk in NBA history.
2) Billy Cunningham (9 seasons, 1965-1972; 1974-1976)
MPG: 34.3; PPG: 20.8; FG% 45%; RPG: 10.1; SPG: 1.2; APG: 4.0
Resume: 4-time All-Star, 3-time All-NBA 1st Team, All-NBA 2nd Team, NBA All-Rookie 1st Team (1966), NBA Champion (1967), No. 32 retired by the 76ers
– “The Kangaroo Kid” was a key member of the 1966-1967 Sixers squad that won the NBA title, excelling as the sixth man of a star-studded lineup. With his extra punch off the bench, the Sixers won 68 games in that championship season. Once Wilt Chamberlain was traded in 1968 and aging Luke Jackson got injured, Billy Cunningham became the star of the team, making four-straight All-Star games and four-straight All-NBA selections from 1969 to 1972. When his playing days were over, Cunningham became the head coach of the Sixers in 1977. He is the best head coach in Sixers history with 454 wins and the head coach of the 1983 world champs.
3) Bobby Jones (8 seasons, 1978-1986)
MPG: 24.8; PPG: 10.7; FG% 54%; RPG: 4.8; SPG: 1.2; APG: 2.2
Resume: 3-time All-Star, 7-time NBA All-Defensive 1st Team, NBA All-Defensive 2nd Team (1985), NBA Sixth Man of the Year (1983), 3 NBA Finals appearances, NBA Champion (1983), No. 24 retired by the 76ers
– No one was better on the defensive end of the court than Bobby Jones. Acquired from the Nuggets in 1978 for George McGinnis, Jones starred as the sixth man for Sixers teams that went to the NBA Finals three times during his time in Philadelphia. He was constantly hustling, diving for loose balls, and blocking shots. He was one of the most hard-working, selfless, and humble players to ever play the game. His play helped him make eight-straight All-NBA Defensive 1st Teams and well as winning the inaugural Sixth Man of the Year award in 1983. His No. 24 hangs in the rafters at the Wells Fargo Center for all of his hard work and dedication to the team.
4) Chet Walker (7 seasons [1 year in Syracuse], 1962-1969)
MPG: 31.6; PPG: 16.2; FG%: 46%; RPG: 7.9; SPG: N/A; APG: 1.8
Resume: 3-time All-Star, NBA All-Rookie First Team (1963), NBA Champion (1967)
– “Chet the Jet” played 6 seasons in Philadelphia and was the starting small forward of the 1967 world champion team. During that season, Walker averaged over 19 points and 8 rebounds per game. A three-time All-Star in Philadelphia, Walker was never the center of attention with teammates like Hal Greer and Wilt Chamberlain. Also known was one of the best open-court forwards of his day, Walker sustained a 13-year career and never missed more than 6 games in a season.
5) Andre Iguodala (8 seasons, 2004-2012)
MPG: 37.7; PPG: 15.3; FG% 46%, RPG: 4.9; SPG: 1.7, APG: 4.9
Resume: NBA All-Star (2012), NBA All-Defensive 2nd Team (2011), NBA All-Rookie 1st Team (2005)
– Andre Iguodala is probably the most under-appreciated player on this entire list, as his eight seasons in Philadelphia were largely met with scrutiny from the fan base. While many didn’t think he was worth the money that the Sixers were paying him on his second contract, Iguodala was one of the better athletes in the league and a top-tier defender during his prime. He was just one of a handful of players who could have a chance to cover LeBron James in a 1-on-1 situation. “Iggy” was also known for his tremendous dunking ability, shining in the 2006 NBA Dunk Contest where he lost in the final round to tiny Nate Robinson. What was most underrated about his game was his all-around ability on the court. From 2006 to 2012, Iguodala averaged 16.6 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 5.6 APG, and 1.8 SPG. His defense was awarded following the 2010-2011 season as he was voted to All-NBA Defensive 2nd Team. He was named to the All-Star team in 2012, being the first Sixer (besides Allen Iverson) to be named an All-Star since Theo Ratliff in 2001. His best moment as a Sixer was making the series-clinching free throws in Game 6 of the 2012 Playoffs in the first round over the Bulls.
There is my list, so let me know what you think of it. Go Sixers!