BY THE TIME the 76ers' parade rolled around in June 1983, I had Veterans Stadium down cold.
The ramps were the best for biking. You used the upper concourse to gather speed and took off like a rocket as you descended the slopes. The feeling of flying ended only when you got to the bottom and had to negotiate an unusually high curb. There's a lot of blood from skinned knees and elbows under the surface that now is a parking lot.
The Sixers won their championship on a Tuesday night, and the parade was held on Thursday afternoon, June 2, 1983. After a ride down Broad Street, the ceremonies would culminate at the Vet. School day or not, I wasn't missing this. (Thanks, Mom.)
Before setting out, I went to the Kmart at 4th & Oregon and bought a couple of poster boards. Because of sloppy penmanship and a few adventures in spellings, like a reference to LA star center Karemm Abdul-Jabbar (d'oh!), it took a few tries to craft my sign.
Sweeping the Lakers took the sting out of losing to Los Angeles in the 1980 and '82 Finals, so I came up with "We Kareemed Them." Looking back, maybe I was trying to mimic the Daily News front page of "We Win!" after the Phillies' title in 1980.
I don't remember much of the Flyers' championship parades in 1974 and '75, and the only thing I remember about the Phillies' celebration was a couple of streakers. For the life of me, I couldn't understand how their moms let them out without any clothes on.
The 1982-83 Sixers season started with the signing of Moses Malone on Sept. 2 and ended with that glorious day of hooky.
Has it really been 25 years?
After locking my bike on the fence outside the Vet, I found a spot for me and my sign in the 500 level. The place was packed and you couldn't hear the players too well. But that was OK. Just seeing them was enough for the 50,000 of us.
It was a different time, and in a facility that no longer exists. It's unimaginable now to let a 12-year-old kid bike down a dangerous ramp without a helmet, much less attend a championship parade by himself. Yeah, it really was a quarter-century ago.
Looking back through the newspaper clippings, I came across a quote from Sixers general manager Pat Williams a few days after the celebration. It seems even more profound today as we mark the last time a Philadelphia team won a major championship.
"The night before the parade, I got a call from [former Phillies owner] Ruly Carpenter, who told me I'd probably feel numb for a while, but that the feeling would change out on Broad Street. He was right," Williams said.
"I can see, from this, why it's so hard to repeat as a champion. There's a tendency to believe, once you've won, that you're over the hurdle. In actuality, you've got to work even harder to remain there. But that's a point that may be in our favor, because we didn't win this title with basketball shoes on, we did it wearing work shoes." *