Sixers were at their apex as a franchise when Moses Malone lifted them to the top

Casey Feeney
·3 min read

Sixers were at their apex when Moses Malone lifted them to the top originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

One of the things I think about from time to time is the moment that a sports franchise was at its summit. While this exercise factors in great moments in franchise history, it is not judging which single moment is the best a franchise has experienced. It's a look at the exact moment that a franchise was at its apex.

We looked at the Phillies' apex Monday and the Flyers' apex Tuesday. Today, we'll dive into the Sixers'.

May 31, 1983

The Sixers of the late '70s and early '80s had rightly developed a reputation as a team that couldn’t win the big one. After the arrival of Dr. J, the Sixers made the NBA Finals three times in the following six years. 

In 1977, they jumped out a 2-0 lead against the Portland Trail Blazers. But Bill Walton and the Blazers bounced back to win the final four games and take home Portland’s first and only NBA title.

In 1980, the Sixers faced off against the Lakers. After an ankle injury suffered in Game 5 of the Finals sidelined Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, it appeared fortune was shining upon the Sixers. But a rookie by the name of Magic Johnson moved to center for Game 6 and posted 42 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists as the Lakers left the Spectrum with the title in hand.

In 1982, it was the Lakers once again besting the Sixers in six games. Then, throw in the 1981 Conference Finals where the Sixers lost to the eventual champion Celtics after building a 3-1 series lead.

The difference in 1983? Moses Malone. The Sixers acquired the all-world big man prior to the 1982-83 season and Big Mo joined Little Mo, the Doctor, Andrew Toney and Iavaroni (no baloney) and the Sixers went all the way. With Malone in the mix, the Sixers owned the glass against all of their opponents. 

While Malone predicted a fo’, fo’, fo’ sweep of all three playoff rounds, the Sixers would have to settle for a four-five-four drubbing of their playoff opponents. On this date, Billy Cunningham’s team finished off a four-game sweep of the Lakers to complete a dominant 12-1 playoff run. 

It was a fitting cap to the greatest era of Sixers basketball filled with Hall of Fame players and memorable battles with some of the best teams of all-time.

Honorable Mention: April 14, 1968

One year after arguably the greatest single-season performance by a team in NBA history, the defending champion Sixers found themselves in a conference finals series against the hated Celtics.

On this day, Wilt Chamberlain, in the third of three consecutive MVP seasons, posted 22 points, 16 rebounds and 8 assists as the Sixers won Game 4 by a score of 110-105 to go up 3-1 in the series. Unfortunately, the Celtics rebounded to win the next three games to take the series. That playoff series would be Chamberlain’s final one as a member of the Sixers.

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