Here the Sixers come … for real this time
This is the most excited I’ve ever been about a Sixers title run.
I know that sounds a bit like “prisoner of the moment” or overlooking so many other historic Sixers teams, but recognize a few key facts that shape my assessment:
1. I was not alive when the 82-83 Sixers swept the Lakers, “fo fo fo”. Seeing as such, I certainly wasn’t alive for the 1967 championship with the legendary Hal Greer & Wilt Chamberlain.
2. Allen Iverson – who I did have the pleasure of watching throughout his career – was never given a legitimate chance to win a championship.
3. The 82-83 Sixers are the only Sixers team in the last 40 years with anything close to the dynamic duo that the Sixers now have.
Let me explain.
Like many Philadelphia Sixers fans, especially those who began loving basketball during the Allen Iverson era, discussion of the Maurice Cheeks, Moses Malone, Dr. J era is ancient history to us – something that is fun to hear about and look forward to your turn to experience it, but nothing more. The same can be said of the Wilt Chamberlain era – despite the incredible, other-worldly numbers that were produced during it.
To be honest, it’s hard to even take ownership of those championships as someone who wasn’t even close to alive when they happened. (Your turn, Cowboys fans who like to put up five fingers to signal championships but who haven’t even seen your team play in an NFC Championship).
Allen Iverson’s best teammate was Aaron McKie. No disrespect intended to Aaron McKie – who won the Sixth Man of the Year award and shot over 40% on 3PA during the Sixers’ NBA Finals run during the 2000-2001 season.
With that said, if Aaron McKie is your second-best player, you’re nowhere close to championship contention. In retrospect, it’s a basketball miracle that A.I. was able to drag that team to the Finals and even a Game 1 victory in Los Angeles vs. the three-peat Shaq & Kobe Lakers.
Allen Iverson. The Stepover. #OTD in 2001 🔥 (via @NBATV) pic.twitter.com/wnisbichAW— SLAM Rewind (@SLAMRewind) June 6, 2019
Throughout the rest of Iverson’s career, he played with players who were fine pieces to a championship recipe, but who had no business being considered in the realm of co-stars in the way that Scottie Pippen, Pau Gasol, and Dwyane Wade deserve to be. In fact, NBC Philadelphia wrote a piece in 2020 chronicling Iverson’s top 11 teammates and Toni Kukoc made the top 5. Enough said.
While we’re talking about co-stars, recognize that the NBA’s 12th all-time per game scoring leader, 1st ballot Hall of Fame offensive initiator, James Harden, is the Sixers’ second option! This is a man who — if he simply averages his career average until this time next season — will pass Allen Iverson on the all-time scoring list.
The narrative put forward by Sixers haters and Debbie downers would lead one to believe that Harden’s points will come at the expense of the soon-to-be league MVP Joel Embiid. Unfortunately for the people making that argument, that’s not borne out by James Harden’s history or the results that we’ve actually seen on the court.
OH MY JOEL EMBIID 😤 pic.twitter.com/yZDrQeSk9l— Brodes Media (@BrodesMedia) February 27, 2022
Even with how good Embiid is, even with Embiid’s ability to go end to end with the ball, the Sixers need trustworthy hands to initiate the offense. They need someone to make people pay for double-teaming Joel Embiid. They need another player to get teams in foul trouble. And that’s exactly what they’ve got in spades.
Obviously, the Sixers and their fans have to hope the injury bug doesn’t bite. Obviously, Joel Embiid doesn’t have the track record of being available throughout the season wire to wire.
However, this Embiid looks different and is playing differently. I’ve got a great feeling. Like I said, this is the most excited I’ve ever been about a Philadelphia 76ers title run.
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Mandatory Credit: David Berding | Getty Images