Philadelphia 76ers, professional basketball team and one of seven teams in the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference of the National Basketball Association (NBA). The 76ers play in the First Union Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and wear jerseys of red, white, and blue. The team s name is taken from the year 1776, when Philadelphia was the political center of the United States, which had just declared its independence from Britain.
The 76ers (also known as the Sixers) began play in 1946 as the Syracuse Nationals. In 1950 they played against the Minneapolis Lakers in the NBA s first championship series. The Nationals were a perennial power behind the play of forward Dolph Schayes, reaching the NBA Finals in 1954 and winning the NBA championship in 1955. The team moved to Philadelphia in 1963 and adopted its current name. In the 1966-67 season the squad included center Wilt Chamberlain, guard Hal Greer, and forwards Billy Cunningham and Chet Walker; it won 68 games and the NBA title. In the late 1970s and early 1980s the 76ers made four trips to the NBA Finals, claiming the 1983 championship. Those teams featured forwards Julius Erving, George McGinnis, and Bobby Jones; guards Maurice Cheeks and Andrew Toney; and center Moses Malone.
The Syracuse Nationals joined the National Basketball League (NBL) in the 1946-47 season. Three years later six NBL franchises, including the Nationals, merged with the Basketball Association of America (BAA) to form the NBA. The Nationals won their division title in the NBA s inaugural season, 1949-50, but they lost to the Minneapolis Lakers in the first NBA Finals.
Dolph Schayes was the Nationals first star. He led the club in scoring for 13 consecutive years and was its top rebounder for 10 seasons. In its early years the team also included player-coach Al Cervi, who first played professionally in the 1930s. The Nationals again lost to the Lakers in the 1954 NBA Finals, but the next season they defeated the Fort Wayne Pistons in seven games to capture the franchise s first NBA title.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s the team remained competitive, but it rarely advanced far in the playoffs. Top players in those years included center Johnny Kerr, forward George Yardley, and guards Larry Costello and Hal Greer.
In 1962 the Philadelphia Warriors franchise moved to San Francisco, California. This left Philadelphia without a professional basketball team. A season later paper manufacturer Irv Kosloff and attorney Ike Richman bought the Syracuse Nationals, moved the team to Philadelphia, and renamed it the 76ers. Halfway through the 1964-65 season the 76ers obtained Wilt Chamberlain from the Warriors in a trade. Chamberlain had led the league in scoring in his first five NBA seasons with the Warriors, and he did so again in his first season with the 76ers. In 1965-66, Chamberlain s first full season with the 76ers, the team won 55 games to break the Boston Celtics string of seven consecutive division titles. In the playoffs, however, the Celtics defeated the 76ers in the division finals.
The next season, 1966-67, the 76ers fielded one of the league s best teams ever. The roster included three future members of the Hall of Fame Chamberlain, Billy Cunningham, and Chet Walker. The club registered 68 wins, which set a league record for the most victories in a single season, and defeated the Warriors for the NBA title. (The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls now hold the record for regular-season wins with 72.) The 76ers won 60 games the following season but were upended by the Celtics in the conference finals. The club traded Chamberlain in 1968, beginning a period of decline that included the worst regular-season record in NBA history a 9-73 win-loss mark in 1972-73.
Philadelphia improved markedly during subsequent seasons, and with the acquisition of high-scoring stars George McGinnis and Julius Erving from the American Basketball Association (ABA), the 1976-77 team won 50 games and advanced to the NBA Finals. There they were upset by the Portland Trail Blazers. The 76ers remained one of the NBA s best teams for the next several seasons. In addition to Erving, outstanding players of the time included forwards Bobby Jones and Darryl Dawkins and guards Maurice Cheeks, Lionel Hollins, and Andrew Toney. In both 1980 and 1982 the 76ers lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals.
In 1982 center Moses Malone joined the 76ers. This completed one of the most powerful rosters ever assembled on an NBA team. Cheeks, Erving, Jones, Malone, and Toney led a 76ers team that posted a 65-17 record in the 1982-83 season and swept the Lakers in the NBA Finals. Malone won the league s most valuable player (MVP) award.
In 1984 the 76ers drafted forward Charles Barkley, who energized the aging team and helped it advance to the 1985 Eastern Conference Finals. Erving retired after the 1986-87 season. In 1992 the 76ers traded Barkley to the Phoenix Suns, and after the deal the team suffered several losing seasons in the early and mid-1990s. In the mid- and late 1990s Philadelphia drafted several promising young players. The most prominent new face was guard Allen Iverson, who was the 1996-97 NBA rookie of the year. In the lockout-shortened 1999 season, Iverson led the 76ers to the club s first playoff appearance since 1991.