After four gruelling years of tanking, results are starting to show for the Sixers.
By: Jackie Teo
It seems like a decade since Allen Iverson was still in the Philadelphia 76ers. The last time the Sixers made the playoffs were in 2011-2012 season, which is also the rookie year for several high profile players such as Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Kawhi Leonard, and Jimmy Butler.
In the long and illustrious history of the Sixers, many superstars were forged inside the Pennsylvania city. Iverson, Charles Barkley, Wilt Chamberlain, and of course the Professor himself, Julius Erving.
Sure, Iverson went to the city full of controversy surrounding him; tattoos, gold chains and bringing the Compton style onto the lacquered court. But his pure talent and amazing determination firmly gave him his own page in the history books of the 76ers. He achieved his prime in 2001, when he averaged 31.1 points, 4.6 assists, and 2.5 steals for the season, gifting him the NBA’s MVP award. Together with a not-as-efficient Dikembe Mutumbo, and a roster of journeyman, Iverson led the 2001 Sixers all the way to the NBA Finals before succumbing to the Lakers led by Kobe and Shaquille O’Neal.
In the total 12 seasons in Philadelphia, “The Answer” averaged 27.3 points, 6.1 assists and 2.3 steals and accumulated four-time NBA scoring champion.
How about Charles Barkley? The 6 foot 6 forward that averaged 23.3 points and 11.6 rebounds during his stint. Sir Charles has since moved on to the analyst desk on TNT together with nemesis Shaquille O’Neal but his versatility on the court can never be forgotten. Wilt Chamberlain won the league MVP three times in his three seasons there, while Dr. J, well, in the 11 seasons with the Sixers, he made 11 All-Star teams. True legends have graced the court at the now defunct Philadelphia Arena and Wells Fargo Centre.
Fast forward six years, after accumulating two number one and two number three draft picks, the Sixers are back in the playoffs.
Introducing Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The two future hall-of-famers unearthed by Sam Hinkie during his execution of the now famous “Process”. Currently averaging 15.8 points, 8.1 rebounds and 8.2 assists per game, Simmons has led the Sixers into the second round of the playoffs. Often compared as having the physicality of Lebron James with the passing ability of Magic Johnson, Simmons has only one-flaw, an almost non-existent perimeter game. But that aside, his ability to play the point guard position is the ultimate gift a team can get. He is arguably the leading man for the Rookie of the Year award, barring any insane performances by Donovan Mitchell of the Utah Jazz. Sounds like a replacement for Allen Iverson? Not quite but read on.
Next, Joel Embiid, a double double machine averaging 22 points and 9.9 rebounds. His size paired up with his unusual speed for a big man and his ability to shooting from beyond the arc makes him a menace for any defender. Quick passes and the chemistry with Simmons during the season thus far has drawn comparisons to the run-and-gun Showtime Lakers.
Embiid might not have mastered Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s skyhook but their play style is similar. He is one of the primary options for the Sixers offence and gelled together in a modern twist by current coach Brett Brown, the team looks as deadly as the Golden State Warriors on occasions. With corner 3’s and layups as priority, their stat lines are ridiculous.
Out of 82 games, the Sixers only scored less than 100 points 15 times and had a 16-game win streak to close out the regular season. As compared to the 34 games scored under 100 in the previous season, I’d say the Sixers has come a long way.
Role players such as Robert Covington, Dario Saric and J.J Redick stepped up and played spectacularly in throughout the season, and together with the two up and coming stars, decimated an ageing Dwayne Wade-led Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.
Now facing an injury-plagued Boston Celtics, the Sixers can look to capitalise despite being 0-2 down in the series at the time of writing. After the Eagles won the SuperBowl and Villanova the NCAA Championship, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to have the Sixers claim the NBA title.
And even if the Sixers do get knocked out of the playoffs, the next five years would seem like a breeze is the East for them.
By: Jackie Teo