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Were the 1967 Philadelphia 76ers the Best NBA Team Ever?

Mark Tulin is a baseball fan from Philadelphia, PA. He has four books of poetry and one short story collection, available on Amazon.

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A Sports Fan Growing Up in Philly

I was 12 years old when the Sixers won an NBA championship, and it was the first championship of my young life. Philadelphia was a great sports city at the time, but there was little to cheer for. The Phillies bordered on mediocre, the Eagles were cellar-dwellers, and the Flyers didn't start their franchise until 1968.

So my life was all about the Sixers. I went to bed dreaming of them, imitating their players shooting free throws in the playground, and I watched them religiously on my nine-inch Panasonic with UHF rabbit ears. I was a die-hard fan.

And it didn't take a genius to know that I was watching history. Not only did the Sixers have the most wins (68) in a season (up until that point), they had four future Hall-of-Famers on the team. They also had a West Philly guy named Wilt Chamberlain, who was the most dominating player in NBA history. For more on Wilt's dominance, please read my article, Why Wilt Chamberlain Was the Best of All Time.

While the Sixers never had a dynasty like the Lakers, Celtics, Warriors, or Bulls, they put together the best team ever assembled for one fantastic year.

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Chamberlain against Thurman in 1966.

Chamberlain against Thurman in 1966.

Six Reasons for Calling the '67 Sixers the Greatest of All Time

  1. Wilt Chamberlain, Hall of Famer. I have to start with the big man in the middle—The Big Dipper. I wrote a previous article about his exploits, his records, and how he changed the game. As the center on the team, he was a monster, unstoppable, and the GOAT. He averaged 24 points and 24 rebounds in 1967. He was the only player ever to do that.
  2. Hal Greer, Hall of Famer. If there was a better mid-range shooter, let me know. Hal Greer's top-of-the-key jumper was phenomenal. Even his free throws were jump shots. He averaged 22 points a game in 1967.
  3. Chet (The Jet) Walker, Hall of Famer. A reliable short-range shooter. He could score on anyone and get to the foul line—Mr. Consistency in '67 and for the remainder of his career. When you needed points in the paint, either give it Wilt or Chet. The Jet averaged 19 per game.
  4. Billy (The Kangaroo Kid) Cunningham, Hall of Famer. They called him the Kangaroo Kid not because he was from Australia but because he could jump out of the gym. This pale-skin small forward from Brooklyn was an athlete who could score at will—close or from long range. And he was Philly's sixth man averaging 18 points per game.
  5. Luke (Lucious) Jackson. Power forward. A ferocious rebounder and defender. He, along with Wilt, were the enforcers on the team. He was the brick wall on defense and the elbow swinger when someone got too close. He was a bigger version of Draymond Green—a mess of trouble for the opposition. He averaged 12 points and 9 rebounds per game.
  6. Wali (Wonder) Jones. One of my favorites on the team. Known as Mr. Excitement, he was a good defender with a streaky outside shot. He was a flashy crowd-pleaser and had a giant fro. He averaged 13 points and 4 assists per game.

Other Iconic NBA Teams Worth Mentioning

  1. The Boston Celtics dynasty (1957-1969) with Bill Russell and coach Red Auerbach leading the way to 11 championships.
  2. The Chicago Bulls with Jordan and Pippen in the 90s won 6 championships.
  3. The Showtime Lakers (1980-1988) with Magic and Kareem gliding to 5 championships.
  4. The Warriors (2015-2018), with Curry and Thompson winning 3 championships, hold the current record for most wins in a season at 73.
  5. San Antonio Spurs (1999-2007) led by Tim Duncan and company won 4 championships.
  6. The Sixers team with Moses Malone and Julius Erving only lost one playoff game in their 1983 championship season.
  7. And the Lakers again, with Kobe leading the way to 5 championships.
Russell and Auerbach celebrating another championship.

Russell and Auerbach celebrating another championship.

Summary

In 1967, there were only 10 teams, which means that every team was strong—the competition was more intense. Big men dominated the arena. In today's game, there are 30 teams, which means that the talent is sparse and diluted. As a result, the league's four or five good teams have easy nights. They could rest players and still win games by comfortable margins.

Therefore, the 1967 Sixers played in an era with top-flight talent, and no teams had raw players right out of high school or only one year of college. The players had good fundamentals and were NBA-ready.

There were many outstanding teams in the history of the NBA. But, if I had to choose one team in one particular year to be the best of all time, it would be the 1967 Philadelphia 76ers with Chamberlain, Greer, Walker, Jackson, Jones, and Cunningham.

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