The Philadelphia 76ers trace their lineage all the way back to the National Basketball League’s Syracuse Nationals, but who are their 25 best players?
Syracuse, N.Y., faded away from the NBA landscape more than a half-century ago, but it was there that the game we think of as the modern NBA received its most important innovation.
The pace of play in the NBA had slowed to a crawl and the fledgling league—still in its first decade of operation—had shrunk to eight teams.
Danny Biasone, the owner of the Syracuse Nationals, calculated that limiting teams to 24 seconds per possession would allow for at least 30 shots per quarter, speeding play and increasing scoring.
The implementation of the 24-second clock changed the game and in a league that has continued to tweak its game-play rules, it is the one standard that remains unchanged for 60 years.
Why is that germane?
Because the Syracuse Nationals are the forefather of the Philadelphia 76ers, a franchise that has been around since the middle of the 1940s, when Biasone sent $5,000 to the National Basketball League to begin a franchise in upstate New York for the 1946-47 season.
The Nationals spent three years in the NBL before joining the NBA as part of a 1949 merger between the NBL and the newer Basketball Association of America.
The franchise reached the postseason ever year it was in Syracuse—three times in the NBL and 14 in the NBA— The Nats beat the Fort Wayne Pistons for the NBA title in 1955 and reached the Finals in 1950 and 1954, losing each time to the Minneapolis Lakers.
In 1963, Irv Kosloff and Ike Richman bought the team from Biasone and moved it to Philadelphia, filling the void left a year earlier when the Warriors joined professional sports’ westward migration by moving to San Francisco.
Changing the name to the 76ers, the franchise has remained in Philadelphia ever since, playing first at the Philadelphia Arena and Civic Center-Convention Hall before moving into The Spectrum in 1967 and its current location, Wells Fargo Center, in 1996.
In 1976, the 76ers were sold to Fitz Eugene Dixon, with Harold Katz buying the team in 1981. Katz sold the franchise in 1996 to Comcast Spectacor, with Pat Croce named team president.
The team was sold in 2011 to a group led by Joshua Harris, co-founder of Apollo Global Management.
The 76ers have added two titles to the franchise’s bounty, beating the San Francisco Warriors in 1967 and the Los Angeles Lakers in 1983. Philadelphia also reached the Finals in 1977, losing to the Portland Trail Blazers, as well as losses to the Lakers in 1980, 1982 and 2001.
Since coming to Philadelphia, the 76ers have reached the playoffs 33 times in 53 seasons, with the franchise’s run of 22 straight years in the postseason ending in 1972. The team has missed the playoffs four straight years, last making the field in 2012.
The 76ers’ best season was in 1966-67, when they won a then-record 68 games in an 81-game schedule. It’s one of four 60-win seasons in franchise history. Philadelphia was 65-17 in 1982-83 and posted 62-20 marks in both 1967-68 and 1980-81.
Philadelphia still owns the record for most losses in a season, a 9-73 disaster in 1972-73, and nearly matched that in 2015-16 with a 10-72 mark.
The 76ers have lost 60 games or more six times in all. The 76ers were 22-60 in 1996-97, 19-63 in 2013-14 and 18-64 in both 1995-96 and 2014-15.
Despite the hard times of the last few seasons and some tough seasons over the last two decades, the franchise still has a winning record overall with a .514 winning percentage (2,726-2,578).
The franchise has employed 20 general managers/personnel decision-makers since joining the NBA, with Pat Williams having the longest tenure from August 1974 until June 1986.
Others who held the job for at least five years include Leo Ferris (from Syracuse’s entry into the NBA until January 1955), Biasone (January 1955 through May 1963) and Billy King—currently the GM of the Brooklyn Nets—from May 1998 until December 2007.
The 76ers have had three GMs in 2016. Sam Hinkie resigned April 6 after just less than three years on the job. Jerry Colangelo held the position for three days before hiring his son, former Executive of the Year Bryan Colangelo, on April 10.
No 76ers executive has been named Executive of the Year since the award began in 1972-73.
Billy Cunningham, who also played for the 76ers in a Hall of Fame career, is the winningest of the franchise’s 24 coaches, going 454-196 from 1977-85 and winning one of the team’s three titles.
Al Cervi coached from 1949-57 and was 294-201, Hall of Fame coach Alex Hannum had two stints with the club (1960-63, 1966-68) and was 257-145 and another Hall of Famer, Larry Brown, was 255-205 from 1997-2003.
Current coach Brett Brown was hired in August 2013 and is 47-199 in three seasons.
Dolph Schayes was named NBA Coach of the Year in 1965-66 and Brown won the award in 2000-01.
The franchise made its third No. 1 overall selection in the NBA Draft in June, taking Ben Simmons from LSU. The 76ers won the coin flip for the top pick in 1973 and selected Doug Collins of Illinois State and after winning the lottery in 1996 chose Allen Iverson of Georgetown.
The team has chosen second four times, third three times, fourth three times and fifth a whopping nine times.
Here are the 25 best players in the history of the Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers. Players had to have appeared in 150 games and averaged a minimum of 20 minutes per game for the team to qualify for this list.