Ranking the top 5 Philadelphia 76ers rosters of all time

Julius Erving starred on the last 76ers championship in 1983
Julius Erving starred on the last 76ers championship in 1983
Michael Tillery

Where the 76ers ranked

Before the Chicago Bulls' dominance of the 90's, the Philadelphia 76ers were seen as the third best franchise behind the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. The 76ers figured prominently in how the NBA looked for decades. From Wilt Chamberlain and Julius Erving to Charles Barkley and Allen Iverson, the 76ers have had an abundance of talented rosters. It's tough to win a title in the city of brotherly love, and when the 76ers win, it's done definitively.

Let's see where historical 76ers teams rank among the all-time greats.

The overachieving 2001 76ers ran into a juggernaut Lakers squad
The overachieving 2001 76ers ran into a juggernaut Lakers squad

#5: 2001 76ers record: 56-26 Lost to Lakers in NBA Finals in five games

League MVP Allen Iverson carried the 76ers offensively in 2001, and won his second scoring title. The 76ers were the Eastern Conference's number one seed and Philadelphia head coach Larry Brown gave Iverson the green light all season. Brown backed his scoring champion with a stellar defense anchored by 2001 Defensive Player of the Year, Dikembe Mutombo. His front court teammates, George Lynch and Tyrone Hill, gave Mutombo toughness in support down low, and, as the 76ers made stops, it played under the philosophy of giving the ball to Iverson and getting the rebound if he missed. It's remarkable that such an offensively limited team could ascend to the Finals, yet with the heart and will of Iverson, and the support of the city, the 76ers were on the brink. The midseason trade of Theo Ratliff for the aforementioned Mutombo was the move the 76ers made that locked up the Finals appearance. Allen Iverson led the 76ers in scoring at 31 a game. Theo Ratliff was next at 12 points per. Aaron McKie led the 2nd unit with 12 off the bench. Raja Bell was a defensive stalwart. Eric Snow fit well with Iverson, and the point guard converted his signature foul line jumper when the 76ers needed it. After defeating the Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Toronto Raptors, the 76ers lost in five games to Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers lost just one game in the 2001 postseason, and it was to the 76ers in Game 1.

Battle of the mentor vs. the mentee
Battle of the mentor vs. the mentee

#4: 1980 Sixers record: 59-23. Lost to Los Angeles Lakers in six games in the NBA Finals

This was my most heartbreaking loss as a sports fan. Everything went right during the season, and it appeared Julius Erving would finally get his NBA championship. The two-time ABA champ and the 76ers were coming off a Game 7 loss to George Gervin and Artis Gilmore's Spurs, and the city wanted the 76ers to win one for Doc. When Kareem Abdul-Jabbar went down with an injury prior to Game 6, the 76ers looked to tie the series at 3-3 and force a game 7. Then Magic happened. Rookie Magic Johnson scored 42 points in Abdul-Jabbar's stead and Doc had to wait again for his NBA time to shine. The 76ers were led by Erving, Doug Collins, Mo Cheeks and Darryl Dawkins. Dawkins was the 80's version of Shaq, yet fouled out of so many games committing offensive fouls on drives to the basket. Lionel Hollins, sixth-man defensive star Bobby Jones, Caldwell Jones and Clint Richardson sparked the 76ers second unit.

As talented a 76ers team Philly has ever had
As talented a 76ers team Philly has ever had

#3 2019 76ers record: 51-31 Lost in 2nd round to Toronto Raptors in seven games

The 76ers were stacked that season. Joel Embiid averaged 28 and 14, JJ Redick, Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris all put up 18 points a game, and Ben Simmons was near a triple-double with 17, 9 boards and eight rebounds. Games were won in the clutch, and inspired defense was absolutely how the 76ers got it done. Harris and Butler were acquired in trades, and heading into the postseason, the 76ers were a darkhorse. Philadelphia finished seven games behind the Toronto Raptors in the Atlantic, and when the Raptors and 76ers played in the 2nd round, a seven game series was inevitable. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid were settling into their defensive skin, and when the 76ers faced the Raptors in that Game 7 in Toronto, anything was possible. Kawhi Leonard snatched any possibility from Philadelphia and hit a classic buzzer beater to advance and eventually become NBA champs. This was Philadelphia's most talented roster since 1983 -- the year Philadelphia won the NBA championship.


#2 1967 76ers record: 68-13 (franchise record) NBA Champions

Wilt Chamberlain's 1967 season is regarded as arguably the best individual season of all time. He averaged 24 points, 24 rebounds and eight assists during the regular season. In the playoffs, Wilt stepped it up even more: averaging 22 points, 29 rebounds and 9.0 assists. He recorded unofficial quadruple doubles in the 15 game playoffs. The Celtics were coming off eight straight NBA championships before the 76ers ended Boston's reign emphatically in five Eastern Division games. In the fifth game, Chamberlain put up an insane 29 points, 36 rebounds, and 13 assists in the win. In his eighth season, Wilt was eliminated by Boston five times, so winning vs. the dominant C's to win his first championship had to be fulfilling. The 76ers defeated Oscar Robertson and the Cincinnati Royals in the first round, and the duo of Rick Barry (averaged 41 and nine boards in the Finals) and Nate Thurmond (14 and 27 boards) of the San Francisco Warriors in the Finals to win the championship. Hall of Famer Hal Greer led the 76ers in the Finals with numbers of 26 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Chet Walker was 23 and eight, Billy Cunningham and Wali Jones both averaged 20 in the series, and Wilt put up 18 points, 29 boards and seven assists.

Mo Cheeks dunked the final two of the 1983 season
Mo Cheeks dunked the final two of the 1983 season

#1 1983 76ers record: 65-17 NBA Champions

The Philadelphia 76ers in 1983 were the best team on the planet, running over the league and giving Julius Erving what eluded him: the NBA championship. Andrew Toney, Mo Cheeks and Bobby Jones can finally be called champions. It was a year where everything fell into place, and Sixers GM pulled the trigger on landing Hall of Fame center Moses Malone. Moses was the reigning league MVP, and the missing piece for the franchise to get over the championship hump. I spoke with Pat Williams, Philadelphia 76ers GM at the time. He explained the impact Moses Malone had since his arrival:

"Without question, from the first day of training camp, there was a sense that this was it. It was gonna happen. There was much focus and then when people saw Moses and the way he approached the game, everyone else knew it as well. The only question was if Doc and Moses were going to collide. Moses cleared the air at the first press conference by saying this was Doc’s team and he was here to help Doc. That proved to be true."
Edited by Arnav Kholkar


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