Second of three parts celebrating
tomorrow's 25th anniversary of the 76ers' winning the 1983 NBA championship.
Tomorrow: Surprise play punctuates
the final game.
Throughout this NBA season, the 76ers celebrated the 25th anniversary of their last championship. And as they brought players back from that 1982-83 title team, it was obvious that a genuine warmth and bond still exists among the teammates.
The Sixers won the title on May 31, 1983, with a 115-108 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, sweeping the best-of-seven series and sweeping away the demons that existed because of so many frustrating close calls.
Many of the Sixers from 1982-83 go years without seeing one another. But when they are brought together, usually for celebrations of their championship, it's as if they've never been apart.
"There is a bond," said forward Bobby Jones, who was named the NBA's defensive player of the year that season. "You had good times, bad times, injuries. But it's a lifelong camaraderie."
After losing in the NBA Finals in 1977, 1980 and 1982, Julius Erving felt a tremendous sense of relief to finally win.
"It was a very magical year, but I guess it was time to clean the skeletons out of the closet," Erving said. "I never looked at them as skeletons. I looked at them as goals we set that we didn't achieve."
Whether it resulted in redemption or satisfaction, that championship put Erving on an even higher level than he had been before.
"It erased a lot of bad memories I might be associated with, [of] not measuring up," Erving said. "When you compare it to so much of what is going on in the world, it is Fantasy Island. It's nothing to cry or worry about or get mad about, but it's something to look at and say, 'Man, this is great.' "
"It's one of the greatest feelings of all time," said center Moses Malone, who was the MVP of the 1982-83 season.
Malone said one of the most memorable moments was the victory parade, where the crowd was estimated at nearly 1.7 million.
"The team was great, and the city was great," Malone said. "I can't believe how many people they had down on Broad Street going to the stadium [at the parade]."
Neither could Erving.
"The parade was great," he said. "That was very special because our families were able to participate in it along with the extended family, which was the city of Philadelphia. There was a oneness there."
Erving said the parade was a unifying force for the community.
"There was political turmoil going on in the city, and everybody just kind of set everything aside," he said. "It was the lion and the lamb laying down and sleeping beside each other, and taking that moment to celebrate something we had sought for a long time and hadn't happened since '67."
Coach Billy Cunningham, who averaged 18.5 points on the Sixers' 1966-67 championship team, always told the players that if they won a title, it would be with them the rest of their lives.
"At the time, we kind of blew off what Billy said, but maybe he knew because he experienced it," reserve guard Clint Richardson said. "It's something you don't realize then, but 25 years later you do."
Malone said reuniting with his former teammates is special.
"It's an opportunity to know that I had some great guys on the team, and it was a pleasure to play with them," said Malone, who came to the team before the 1982-83 season after a sign-and-trade deal with the Houston Rockets.
Sixers coach Maurice Cheeks, the point guard on the championship squad, said the road to the title - not just that final win - was something he'll always treasure.
"The whole year was like a special year," he said. "Everybody understood what it took to win, and it wasn't one game that stood out. The personalities on that team, everything on that team, was, like, perfect."
Whether a player was an all-star that season, such as Malone, Erving, Cheeks and Andrew Toney, or a deep reserve, they all shared a bond that is just as strong 25 years later.
"When you win a championship, you never realize at the time that you are connected for life, not only to the players, but everybody in the organization," reserve guard Franklin Edwards said. "All of these guys, I feel like [they're] brothers. It's so difficult to win a championship that you are bonded for life."