The Philadelphia 76ers were pretty bad at various times after the All-Star break. Yet Sixers fans like myself could still take comfort in making the playoffs anyway - and that they weren't the Charlotte Bobcats. In fact, now every single team in NBA history can take comfort in how they weren't the 2011-12 Bobcats - even the 1972-73 Sixers.
Philadelphia was the capital of awful sports teams in 1972, as the Sixers and Phillies had historically dreadful years. But at least the 1972 Phillies had Steve Carlton's legendary 27 wins, which was three times more than what the 1972 Sixers had the entire season. Their 9-73 year set the bar for awfulness in the NBA for 40 years - at least until this year's Bobcats came along.
Charlotte's 23'rd straight loss to end the season officially gave it the record for the worst winning percentage in NBA history. The 104-84 defeat to the New York Knicks on April 26 capped a 7-59 season with a .106 winning percentage - just lower than the 1972 Sixers' .110 mark.
The loss also impacted the current Sixers, as it helped assure that Philadelphia would finish with the No. 8 playoff seed - although that is likely what it really wanted. Not only did it ensure that the Sixers wouldn't face the Miami Heat, it got the worst team in Philadelphia history off the hook a little bit.
Of course, there has to be an asterisk around the Bobcats' "achievement" given this shortened 66-game year. If this was a normal 82-game season, Charlotte would most likely finish above 9-73 and not be the worst team in NBA history during a full year. Record wise, no one has still ever finished below 9-73, and it is very hard to imagine it happening under normal circumstances.
Still, even the Sixers from 40 years ago didn't end things on a 23-game losing streak. They also didn't have the irony of being the worst team ever, while being owned by the best player ever in Michael Jordan. Plus anyone can be ugly in an 82-game season, yet it takes a special art to be so awful during a compressed season where everyone is supposed to be worse - but not like this.
Nevertheless, until someone finishes 8-74 or lower, the 1972 Sixers can't quite be knocked off their perch as the worst team ever assembled. The Bobcats are certainly no worse than No. 2, although they can't be put at No. 1 without some reservations. But it will take a really special rotten team to fully erase Philadelphia's past shame and its special place in NBA infamy.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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