My Beloved, Hopeless Sixers

After winning the NBA championship in 1983 in dominating fashion, the 76ers have tormented my sports soul relentlessly.  Their failures have been particularly dificult for me because, unfortunately, they are my favorite Philadelphia team.

During my childhood, the franchise was defined by one player: Charles Barkley.  The power forward out of Auburn will be remembered as one of the greatest players in NBA history, but he never led the Sixers beyond the second round of the playoffs, where they lost in consecutive years to Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.  And yes, this is why I always hated Michae Jordan.

After Barkley feuded with management and was traded for three inferior players, the team’s win total declined each season from 1991 to 1996.  The team bottomed out by finishing the 1996 season with the league’s second-worst record.  Fortunately that resulted in them earning the #1 pick in that year’s draft, which was used to select Allen Iverson from Georgetown University.

Iverson quickly became a fan favorite and developed into one of the top players in the NBA.  Similar to Lindros with the Flyers, Iverson was billed as the team’s (and city’s) savior, the answer to all its problems.  His nickname, “The Answer,” fit his billing perfectly.

The team’s inspired run to the 2001 NBA Finals was the high point of Iverson’s career, but again the city’s heart was broken as the team was defeated, 4 games to 1, by the Los Angeles Lakers, who were led by Philadelphia native Kobe Bryant.  The years preceding and following that run have seen numerous disappointments, including consecutive 2nd-round losses to the Indiana Pacers and two playoff series losses to the Detroit Pistons.  Additionally, Iverson feuded with management, coaches and players, and is rumored to be on the trading block this year as the team looks to rebuild.

I remember sitting in the stands during the Sixers thrilling Game 7 win against the Toronto Raptors in 2001.  I remember thinking that the team would win it all.  Hadn’t I learned my lesson?  Will I ever?

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