Which are the best starting fives in Sixers history?
In attempting to answer that question, we went back to the 1963-64 season, when the franchise moved to Philadelphia and adopted the “76ers” name, and looked for starting units with a mix of prodigious individual talent and cohesiveness.
Julius Erving appears on our list three times, while the 2000-01 team is the most recent lineup. That’s where we’ll begin.
5. 2000-01: Eric Snow, Allen Iverson, George Lynch, Tyrone Hill, Dikembe Mutombo
There were a few iterations of the ’00-01 Sixers’ starting five. Theo Ratliff made his only All-Star appearance and led the NBA in blocks per game, but the Sixers dealt him to the Hawks and acquired Mutombo in a six-player trade after Ratliff injured his wrist. Mutombo earned the Defensive Player of the Year award and was a central part of the team’s Finals run. Lynch and Snow weren’t regular starters during the playoffs because of injuries, but the two provided the defense and toughness Larry Brown loved. Oh yeah, and Iverson, generously listed at 6-feet and “bony as hell,” was the league’s Most Valuable Player.
4. 1976-77: Henry Bibby, Doug Collins, Julius Erving, Caldwell Jones, George McGinnis
ABA alumni McGinnis and Erving were All-Star starters in '76-77, McGinnis’ second season with the team and Erving’s first. They were joined in the Eastern Conference's All-Star starting lineup by Collins, who put up 18.3 points and 4.7 assists per game. The Sixers took a 2-0 lead in the Finals but dropped the next four games to Bill Walton and the Trail Blazers, a bitter end to a season full of drama and internal tension.
3. 1984-85: Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney, Julius Erving, Charles Barkley, Moses Malone
On talent alone, these five names are the best starters in Sixers history. However, we have them at No. 3 because they were less successful than the ’82-83 team, winning seven fewer regular-season games and falling in the Eastern Conference Finals. Barkley was a rookie, Erving — while still very good — was a little past his prime, and the Celtics were the better team. Though Barkley started 60 games in the regular season, he came off the bench for all but the team's final two playoff games, with the Sixers giving the rookie over 30 minutes per contest but opening games with a veteran Bobby Jones.
2. 1982-83: Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney, Julius Erving, Marc Iavaroni, Moses Malone
This group went 12-1 in the postseason, including a sweep of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the defending champion Lakers. The ’82-83 Sixers' starting lineup had three Hall of Fame players in Cheeks, Erving and Malone, the MVP and very large piece that got them over the hump. We also shouldn’t forget that Toney, otherwise known as “The Boston Strangler,” was an All-Star in his third season, posting 19.7 points and 4.5 assists a game. He didn’t have to worry about Boston that year as the Sixers blazed past the Knicks and Bucks on their way to the Finals. The team had another Hall of Famer on its bench in Jones, who won the inaugural Sixth Man of the Year award.
1. 1966-67: Wali Jones, Hal Greer, Chet Walker, Luke Jackson, Wilt Chamberlain
The ’66-67 Sixers went 68-13 in the regular season and ended the Celtics’ run of eight straight championships. Hall of Famers Greer, Walker and Chamberlain were the marquee attractions, but the other starters complemented them extremely well. Philadelphia native and Villanova product Jones was a reliable point guard, and Jackson was a solid power forward/backup center hybrid. Chamberlain averaged 24.1 points, the low mark of his career at that stage, but was brilliant all around in winning a second consecutive MVP award, with a league-best 24.2 rebounds per game and 7.8 assists per game, third in the NBA.
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