June 17, 1992, is a day that will live in infamy among Sixers fans. That’s when the team traded six-time All-Star Charles Barkley to the Phoenix Suns for Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry.
Barkley would go on to make five more All-Star teams, win a league MVP and eventually be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. The Sixers wouldn’t win more than 30 games in a season until Allen Iverson’s second season in 1997-98.
It’s a move that still stings — especially to one of the people that had a hand in making it.
As a guest on the Sixers Talk podcast, Coach Jim Lynam expressed his regret with the deal despite Barkley wanting out.
“Charles, from his perspective, he made it known in no uncertain terms that he didn’t want to be here,” Lynam said. “And I would say in hindsight — this is just me, my own personal opinion — we made a mistake in listening to him. I tell Charles that to this day.”
Barkley was taken fifth overall in 1984, joining a Sixers team that was a year removed from a championship and featured Hall of Famers Moses Malone, Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks and Bobby Jones, and two-time All-Star Andrew Toney.
In 1986, the Sixers traded away Malone in another ill-fated move. Barkley has repeatedly spoken about the profound impact Malone had on not only his career but his life. Erving retired after the 1986-87 season. Cheeks was traded in 1989. Jones retired a year before Erving. Toney’s career was derailed by a foot injury and he was forced into retirement in 1988 at the age of 30.
That left Barkley with little help or guidance as he was entering the prime of his career. By the time Lynam took over as head coach in the middle of the 1987-88 season, the Sixers didn’t resemble the team Barkley had joined. Lynam would lead the team to the playoffs the next three seasons, losing to Michael Jordan and the Bulls in the second round twice.
As Lynam moved into the front office as GM in 1992, he knew Barkley was not pleased with the team’s standing after a 35-47 season. Still, he wishes he and the team handled it differently.
A letter from a fan reacting to the move still sticks in Lynam’s mind.
I got one letter in particular that I saved over the years and it started out, ‘Dear Coach Lynam,’ and it’s the first line, ‘Never trade a super[star].’ Literally, word for word. Second line, ‘Never trade a super[star].’ The guy repeated that line like 10 times. ‘Never trade a super[star].’ It was a classic of a letter, but end of story, the fella was right.
“You can’t trade star, star talent unless you’re getting star, star talent in return, which is rarely the case. Somehow, some way you have to figure it out and work your way around it. Hindsight, yeah, a mistake by Jim Lynam and the 76ers and all who had any part of it.
It's a lesson Lynam learned the hard way and has influenced the way he thinks about the current iteration of the team.
As an analyst on Sixers Pre- and Postgame Live, Lynam watches Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons on a nightly basis. It’s no secret the All-Star duo isn’t an ideal fit on the court, which has led some to wonder if the Sixers should explore a trade.
While he acknowledges the difficulty in getting it all to work, he also knows from his experience with Barkley that the solution is not to trade star players.
As it relates to current times, yeah, I think there is a problem here in terms of how do you best blend the talents of these two star players, Embiid and Simmons. Well, guess what, that’s what it’s about. Solving problems. There’s an old phrase, problems are meant to be solved, not rejoiced over. You can talk about them all day on talk radio and fine, that’s great for that segment of the population.
“If you’re in the Sixers’ side of it, you got to figure this stuff out and I think these guys are doing a pretty good job of working toward that end. It’s not gonna be snap your fingers and go out and you win 70 games and two straight championships. It’s a process, no pun intended. … I have confidence that when it’s all said and done and you’re looking back on this years from now, you will see championships as a result.
You can listen to the entire Sixers Talk podcast with Lynam below.
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