Before the Philadelphia 76ers became one of the NBA’s most consistent cellar-dweller of today, they had a rich history and tradition.
The Sixers are one of the oldest franchises in the NBA and were originally known as the Syracuse Nationals. Founded in 1946, they are one of eight teams which survived the league’s first decade. The franchise has won a total of three championships, one in the ABA and two in the NBA. They’ve been struggling as of late as they have not advanced to the NBA Finals since 2001. But we’re not here to talk about the bad times. We’re here to talk about the Sixers’ glory years and rich tradition. We’re here to list down the players who contributed to the team’s successes over the decades.
Here are the top Sixers players of all-time:
10. Bobby Jones
In the words of Julius Erving himself: "Bobby Jones ran like a deer, jumped like a gazelle, played with his heart and head each night and walks away from the court like nothing happened."
While Dr. J was electrifying the crowds with his dunks and Moses Malone dominating the boards with his inside presence, Bobby Jones was doing the dirty work. The most popular sixth man in Sixers history starts our list at #10 but if you asked him, he'd gladly yield the spot to any other Sixer. That's how unselfish he was. But Jones wasn't just unselfish; he was one of the best defenders of his generation.
Jones was the first recipient of the NBA's Sixth Man of the Year award. He was named to eight consecutive NBA All-Defensive First teams, 1 NBA All-Defensive 2nd team, four All-Star game selections and one NBA title. But perhaps more importantly, the Sixers never missed the playoff bus in Jones' 12 NBA seasons.
9. Maurice Cheeks
If the word thief was a compliment, then it would be the best adjective for Maurice Cheeks. One of the great ball thieves of all-time, Cheeks is another defensive gem from the Philadelphia 76ers.
The starting point guard of the 1983 title team was named to the NBA All-Defensive team five times, including four consecutive years on the first team from 1983-1986. Mo Cheeks was in the league's Top 10 in steals in each of his first 10 NBA seasons and was one of the best pickpocket artists of all-time. Cheeks is 5th in the NBA's all-time steals list.
Aside from defense, Cheeks averaged 6.7 assists per game in 15 seasons and is currently ranked 13th in the NBA's all-time assists leader last. He was a five time NBA All-star and a member of the 1983 title squad.
8. Dolph Schayes
He could score and he could rebound. He was the first superstar in Philadelphia 76ers history and one of the talented big men who helped the NBA grown into a budding business.
Adolph 'Dolph' Schayes played his entire career with the Sixers and its predecessor the Syracuse Nationals. In his 16-year playing career, Schayes led the franchise to 15 playoff appearances. Later in his career, he became a playing coach for the 76ers and became a full-time head coach after retirement. He won the Coach of the Year award in 1966.
As a player though, he was a dominant force. He was a 12 times All-Star, 6 time All-NBA First team selection, and six time All-NBA Second team selection and was part of the Syracuse Nationals team which won the NBA championship in 1955. Schayes was the NBA’s leading rebounder in 1951. He was also named to the NBA's 25th anniversary team and NBA's 50 Greatest Players.
7. Billy Cunningham
Our next entry makes this list not only because he was a top Philadelphia 76ers player of All-Time but because he was a superstar coach as well. In fact, he was part of one championship each as a player and coach.
Known as the Kangaroo Kid, Billy Cunningham was the Sixers 5th pick overall in the 1965 draft. Two years into his career, Cunningham won the NBA title in 1967 alongside Wilt Chamberlain, Hal Greer, Chet Walker and Luke Jackson. When Chamberlain left in 1968, Cunningham became the team’s new franchise player.
Following his retirement, Cunningham became the coach of the Sixers and reached the 300 and 400 win milestone faster than anybody at that time. During his tenure as coach, the Sixers made the playoffs every year. He piloted the team to three NBA Finals’ appearances, winning the franchise’s most recent NBA title in 1983.
As a player, Cunningham was 4-time NBA All-Star, a 3-time All NBA First Team selection and the 1973 ABA MVP. He was part of the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-time team.
6. Charles Barkley
They say height is might but Charles Barkley defied that old saying. Despite being an undersized power forward, Barkley went on to become one of the NBA’s best rebounders of all-time and one of the most iconic players in the history of the Philadelphia 76ers franchise.
Also known as the ‘Round Mound of Rebound’, Barkley was a fierce competitor who never backed down from anybody. While he didn’t possess the height of the other big men, his heart and desire were bigger than anybody else. Barkley was the fourth player in NBA history to tally 20,000 points, 10,000 rebounds and 4,000 assists. He won two Olympic gold medals as part of the 1992 and 1996 U.S. Men’s National Basketball Team.
Sir Charles made the All-NBA First team 5 times and the All-NBA Second team also five times. Barkley was also an 11 time NBA All-Star, the All Star game MVP in 1991 and the league’s prestigious MVP trophy in 1993. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie team in 1985 and was All-NBA Third team in 1996. Barkley is the Sixers’ All-time leader in offensive and defensive rebounds. He is 5th in scoring and first in true shooting percentage.
5. Moses Malone
Just as the Biblical Moses led the Exodus to the land of promise, this Moses also led the Philadelphia 76ers franchise to their own promised land. After failing to beat the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1980 and 1982 NBA Finals, the Sixers finally won their first title in Philadelphia on the year Moses Malone was acquired from the Houston Rockets.
Malone was a prized acquisition. He was already a two-time MVP in Houston when he joined a loaded Sixers team led by Julius Erving, Mo Cheeks, Andrew Toney and Bobby Jones. The result? They breezed through the playoffs with an 11-1 record on the way to winning the 1983 NBA Championship. Up until the Pistons won the title in 1989, that title was the one that broke the Lakers and Celtics monotony of the 1980’s.
The ‘Chairman of the Board’ led the NBA in rebounding six times, including five in a row from 1981 to 1985. He retired as the NBA/ABA career leader in offensive rebounds. Aside from 3 MVP, Malone also won the 1983 NBA Finals MVP. He was a 12-time NBA All-Star, a four-time member of the All-NBA First team, four-time member of the All-NBA Second team, All-NBA Defensive First team in 1983 and All-NBA Defensive Second team in 1975. Malone was named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-time team.
4. Hal Greer
The perfect compliment to Wilt Chamberlain’s dominating inside presence was these speedster scoring guard. Greer and Chamberlain became the catalysts of the strong Philadelphia 76ers team which ended Bill Russell’s incredible run of eight straight NBA titles in the 1960’s. Wilt was the star but during the 1967 NBA playoffs, it was Greer who led the team in scoring and ultimately, the NBA title.
Greer was considered as the third best guard of the 60’s behind Oscar Robertson and Jerry West. He was the MVP of the 1968 All-Star game after going a perfect 8-8 from the field and scoring a then record of 19 points in the 2nd quarter. Greer is currently the Sixers all-time leader in points scored, games played, minutes played, field goals made and field goals attempted. He is also ranks #2 in the franchise’s all-time assists leaderboard.
Hal Greer was a 10-time NBA All-Star and was selected to 7 All-NBA Second Teams. He was also included in the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team. Because of his basketball achievements, his hometown renamed a street ‘Hal Greer Boulevard’ in his honor.
3. Allen Iverson
Hal Greer was the greatest guard in Sixers history for a long time, until this little big man came and changed that.
Allen Iverson was the Sixers #1 overall pick in the 1996 NBA draft, the same draft class that produced Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, Ray Allen and Peja Stojakovic. In fact, he beat out all those future All-Stars to the NBA’s Rookie of the Year honors in 1997. Known as the Answer, Iverson was an unstoppable scorer despite being only six feet tall. He led the NBA in scoring four times, steals three times and minutes played seven times. Iverson reached his peak in 2001 when he led a so-so Sixers team to the NBA FInals against the mighty Los Angeles Lakers. They lost to Kobe and Shaq but Iverson’s herculean efforts won him the MVP that season.
A.I. never won an NBA title but his resume was one of the greatest. He was also a two time All-Star game MVP, 11-time NBA All-Star selection, 3-time member of the All-NBA First team, 3-time member of the All-NBA Second team and one-time member of the All-NBA third team. He is the Sixers 2nd best all-time in points, assists and steals.
2. Wilt Chamberlain
Wilt Chamberlain at #2? Well that’s because Wilts’ fabled 100 point night and 50 point scoring average took place when he was playing for the Philadelphia Warriors. That’s the same city but not the same franchise. Otherwise, Wilt was still Wilt- spectacular performances and out of this world statistics.
Chamberlain was hailed as the most dominant basketball force ever, dominating the game on both ends of the court. He led the NBA in scoring 7 times, rebounding 11 times, field goal percentage 9 times and assists once. He is the only player in NBA history to average 30 points and 20 rebounds in a single season and he did it seven times. He is also the only player in NBA history to average 40 and 50 points per game in a single season.
Chamberlain only played three seasons for the Sixers but he won the MVP in each of those seasons. Chamberlain won two NBA titles, including the Sixers’ epic 1967 championship. He was league MVP four times, NBA All-Star 13 times, All-Star Game MVP once and NBA Finals MVP once. He was also named to the All-NBA First team 7 times, All-NBA Second team 3 times and NBA all-Defensive first team two times.
1. Julius Erving
The NBA’s most famous afro belonged to the greatest Philadelphia 76ers player of all-time.
Julius Erving wasn’t just an NBA great; he was a player who revolutionized the game. Known as Dr. J, Erving was the NBA’s first slam dunk superstar. We all know Michael Jordan took off from the free throw line to win a dunk contest. But before Jordan did it, Dr. J already accomplished that feat. Erving was the ABA Dunk contest champion in 1976. But dunking was just the tip of the Julius Erving Iceberg.
Dr. J won three championships, four MVPs and three scoring titles in the ABA and NBA combined. He is the only player in history to be crowned MVP in both the ABA and NBA. He was an 11-time NBA All-Star, 5-time ABA All-Star and 2-time NBA All-Star Game MVP. Erving was All-NBA First team five times and All-ABA First team four times. He was also in the All-NBA Second team twice and All-ABA Second team once. He is a member of the ABA All-time team and the NBA’s 50 Greatest Players. With incredible success from both the ABA and NBA, there is no doubt that Julius Erving is the top Sixers’ player of all-time.
Subscribe to Sport.ONE
Get the latest posts delivered right to your inbox