Philadelphia 76ers: From Greatness to Laughing Stock
By Tashan Reed: Staff Writer At Hoopstuff…
The Philadelphia 76ers are one of the oldest and most storied franchises in NBA history. They’ve had some of the greatest teams ever as well as some of the greatest players to ever play the game. They’ve won three NBA championships, with the second coming way back in the 1966-67 season when there were only 10 teams in the league and the “Baltimore Bullets” were still a thing. The team was lead by the incredible Wilt Chamberlain, who averaged 24.1 points on 68.3% shooting from the field, 24.2 rebounds, 7.8 assists, and an unknown number of blocks that season. Their third and last championship came in the 1982-83 season when a team led by the likes of Julius “Doctor J” Erving, Moses Malone, and Maurice Cheeks earned a 15-1 record in the playoffs and swept the Los Angeles Lakers in the finals. Although they haven’t won another championship in over 30 years, the success of the 76ers didn’t end there. From 1984 to 1992 the 76ers had one of the greatest power forwards of all time on their roster: Charles Barkley. Barkley never led the 76ers (or any team, for that matter) to an NBA championship, but he put up ridiculous numbers during his eight years playing for the franchise. “The round mound of rebound” known as Charles Barkley averaged 23.3 points and 11.6 rebounds per game which was a feat made even more impressive by the fact that he was only 6’6” (if that).
The era of Barkley ended in 1992 when he was traded away to the Suns, but a new era began only four years later when the 76ers selected Allen Iverson with the first overall pick in 1996. Iverson won the rookie of the year award in his first season, putting up 23.5 points and 7.5 assists and making it clear that he was something special. “The Answer” was one of the greatest scorers the league has ever seen during his time with the 76ers and even led the team to an NBA finals appearance, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers. Iverson also won the MVP award that same season, however, his great talent wasn’t enough to keep the team afloat for much longer. The 76ers slipped into mediocrity and a trend of sub-.500 records before Iverson finally left the team in 2006. Since he’s left the 76ers have been average at best, and for the last few years they’ve been absolutely horrible. Andre Iguodala lead the team from 2006-2011 and then Jrue Holiday took over from 2011-2013, but neither player was able to accomplish much success. After a disappointing 2012-13 season, the 76ers hit the reset button in the 2013 draft by trading away all-star point guard Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel and a pick. With that pick they selected Michael Carter-Williams, who surprisingly went on to win the rookie of the year award. Noel missed the entire 2013-14 campaign with a torn ACL and the 76ers went on to have their worst season in almost 10 years with a 19-63 record. They selected Joel Embiid in this past year’s draft, but just like Noel he’s set to miss the entire season with an injury that he suffered in college.
Last year and during this past offseason the 76ers traded away or simply chose not to resign almost every player that gave them a chance to win basketball games. Two of the most notable names that the 76ers dumped were Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young; both of whom had been more than serviceable for the team. It’s clear what they were making every attempt to tank for this upcoming season, a topic that draws heated debates. Some don’t see anything wrong with it, they believe that smaller market teams who can’t sign the big-name free agents have to get better anyway they can. Others are strongly against it, and a few have even called for teams that tank like the 76ers are to be punished for their actions. Tanking is a strange subject that’s emerged in the past few seasons, and there really isn’t any clear cut answer on whether it’s good or bad. On one end it gives a struggling team its best shot for a top pick in the draft and a chance at selecting a potential franchise-changing player. On the other side it gives the fans almost no reason to come to the games or supports the team. Honestly, who wants to spend money to come to an arena and watch a team that’s 1-17 lose on purpose in a blowout fashion? Seriously, the organization is making it clear that they don’t care about winning, why then should the fans care about coming to see the games? Philadelphia is known for having some of the most passionate fans in the United States, and they are undoubtedly disgusted with what their once-great team is doing.
If it weren’t for their victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Philadelphia 76ers would’ve tied for the worst start in NBA history. Sure, even if they tried to form a solid roster the 76ers would’ve still been a long shot to make the playoffs. However, this isn’t the answer, it can’t be. Purposefully losing games is extremely disrespectful to a very loyal and passionate fanbase, and inevitably drops the moral of the players on the roster immensely. Losing like this makes the 76ers even less likely to be able to sign a big-name free agent and getting a franchise-changing player in the draft isn’t exactly something that happens all too often. What if the draft lottery doesn’t role their way and they end up with a pick that causes them to miss out on that special player? Do they just scrap the 2015-16 campaign and tank all over again? It’s unfair to put a fanbase through this, and it’ll be interesting to see just how long the 76ers do it.