After spending their first 14 years as the Syracuse Nationals, the Philadelphia 76ers arrived in the City of Brotherly Love ready to improve upon their early success. Since then, the club has made their mark on the National Basketball Association by serving as home to some of the game’s most resilient athletes, the sort of guys who not only come through in the clutch but relish their moments in the spotlight.
The Nats won 51 games in their inaugural season and followed up that campaign by booking a trip to the NBA Finals. While the Minneapolis Lakers would get the best of them in both 1950 and ‘54, the club persevered and captured its first world championship in ‘55. In the spring of ‘63, it was announced that the franchise would be moving to Philly to fill the void left by the Warriors, who headed west to start anew in the Golden State. While Hal Greer and Chet Walker would become the new organization’s first All-Stars in 1964, it was a trade executed in January of the next year that would give the Sixers the marquee name that they craved.
Philly fans were already familiar with the exploits of Wilt Chamberlain, as many of them had watched him dominate games as a member of the Warriors, but no one was prepared for the great heights to which he would take them during his second tour of duty. In 1967, Chamberlain led the Sixers to 68 wins during the regular season and then powered them past San Francisco to take the title. When the team raised the championship banner the following fall, they did so inside The Spectrum, the mighty coliseum that would stand as their home court until 1996.
Julius Erving arrived in 1976 and quickly assumed the role vacated by Chamberlain. The high-flying three-time MVP of the defunct ABA, “Dr. J” propelled the Sixers to NBA Finals appearances in ‘77, ‘80 and ‘82 before finally taking home the crown in ‘83. By this point, not only was Philly a proven winner, but they also had a funky fight song to stir up their Phaithful fanbase. “Here Come the Sixers” featured simple lyrics, but a clear message: this club was not to be messed with.
Despite being nearly a foot shorter than previous greats like Chamberlain and Moses Malone, Allen Iverson had undoubtedly the most heart of anyone who has worn a Sixers uniform. A four-time winner of the league scoring title, “AI” had his finest season in 2000-01 when he captured the MVP award and carried Philly to a Finals showdown with the Lakers. When the Sixers took Game 1 in Los Angeles, it truly felt like anything was possible. While they lost the series, Iverson had established himself as one of the game’s brightest stars, and in doing so, put the Sixers back on the map. Now, no matter what, Philadelphia can count on legions of diehards who will ride with them into battle.