The Sixers will wear several uniforms during the 2019-20 season, including one from deep in the vaults of their history.
For half of the 1970-71 campaign, the players wore jerseys with “Seventy Sixers” printed on the front. The uniforms with which the team opened that season were custom-made and labor-intensive, which made midseason acquisitions a problem, so a switch was made.
The Sixers will wear those obscure jerseys “several times” this year, the team said. While it’s another chance for the club to ring the cash register, Sixers president Chris Heck said it’s also a way to pay tribute to one of its all-time greats.
“We always want to look back in history and honor our past players, coaches and fans,” Heck said. “This was the next step in that evolution. And also [it symbolizes] the continuity of Billy Cunningham from being a player to a coach to a legend with us. It really gave us a chance to tip our cap to Billy C.”
The 1970-71 Sixers were four years removed from a title and two years away from going 9-73. They went 47-35 and nearly overcame a 3-1 deficit against the Baltimore Bullets in the first round of the playoffs. Alas, they lost in Game 7 despite Archie Clark’s 37 points. Cunningham averaged 25.9 points for the series.
That season was the last of three consecutive years in which Cunningham was first-team All-NBA. The others from 1970-71 were Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dave Bing, John Havlicek, and Jerry West. Not bad.
All five are in the basketball Hall of Fame and each was chosen among the top 50 NBA players of all-time during the league’s 50th-anniversary celebration in 1996.
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“Everything we do,” Sixers chief marketing officer Katie O’Reilly said, “we try to bring to life our history and tell stories of these legends, but do it in a way that is modern and effortlessly cool and connects with our fans of today.”
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O’Reilly said the club would map out its uniform schedule for the entire 82-game season once the league schedule comes out, which generally happens in the second week of August.
The Sixers have some flexibility to manipulate what they wear in the postseason, so if they are dominant with these Billy Cunningham-era unis, they likely will pop up in late April. If they’re a disaster, they’d go the way of Phillies burgundy.
“We track our record and share it with the players,” Heck said. “It’s really funny, because you’ll have different players lobby for different uniforms … but that’s OK because we want these guys to be into it. And we want the fans to be into it, too.”