In light of LeBron James's stated desire to end his career as one of the four greatest players in NBA history (he won't quite make it... but it's nice to have goals), we put together a Philadelphia 76ers-themed Mount Rushmore of our own.
For a team with as much history as the Sixers/Syracuse Nationals, this proved to be a remarkably simple exercise. Easier, in fact, than actually finding the real Mt. Rushmore on a map (10 Liberty Ballers points if you know where it's located without using the Google machine).
Philadelphia 76ers' Mount Rushmore
1) Wilt Chamberlain
Notable accomplishments as a Sixer: 27.6 PPG, 23.9 RPG, 6.8 APG, 58.3 FG%, 2x scoring champ (1964-65, 1965-66), 3x rebounding champ (1965-66, 1966-67, 1967-68), 1 title (1966-67), led league in total assists (1967-68), ~6,452 of his alleged 20,000 women
Wilt Chamberlain wasn't just the biggest omission (both literally and figuratively) from James's Mt. Rushmore: He was a dominating center who changed the way the game of basketball was played forever.
The 7'1", 275-pound Chamberlain spent just three and a half years for the Sixers/Nationals franchise as we know it today: His first stint in Philadelphia came as a member of the Warriors, who moved to San Francisco prior to the 1962-63 season.
Financial issues forced the Warriors to trade Chamberlain to the Sixers in January 1965, and "Wilt The Stilt" had an immediate impact on his new team, willing the 76ers to the doorstep of the 1965 NBA Finals (until this happened).
"The Big Dipper" would lead the league in rebounding, minutes played and field goal percentage in each of the next three seasons en route to winning three consecutive NBA MVP awards. Chamberlain wasn't just a vital member of the title-winning 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers (considered by many to be the greatest team ever), he proved that he was more than capable of sacrificing his offense in the interests of winning (Chamberlain finished the season tied for third on the Sixers in field goal attempts).
From The Archives
From The Archives
The following year, tired of the insinuation that he was unwilling to pass to his teammates, Chamberlain led the NBA with 702 assists. Let the record show that Chamberlain was #YOLO long before anyone ever came up with the concept of a hashtag.
Chamberlain's numbers are so ridiculous, they almost make you question the accuracy of NBA scorekeepers some five decades ago. And despite only one title to his credit, it will be hard for anyone to unseat Chamberlain as the greatest Sixer of all time.
2) Julius Erving
Notable accomplishments as a Sixer: 23.1 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 4.0 APG, 1.9 SPG, 1.6 BPG, 50.7 FG%, 7x All-NBA, 1x MVP (1980-81), 1 title (1982-83)
Much like Wilt Chamberlain, some of Julius Erving's best years on a basketball court came prior to his arrival in Philadelphia. And just as in the deal that resulted in Chamberlain's return to the City of Brotherly Love, Erving would never have been a Sixer if it weren't for money (or lack thereof).
As a result of the New York Nets joining the NBA in 1976, owner Roy Boe was forced to pay the New York Knicks $4.8 million in damages due to the Nets' "invasion" of the Knicks' NBA market. In order to raise the funds, Boe sold Erving's contract to the Sixers for $3 million, and the history of two franchises was forever altered.
Quite frankly, Erving should have won a title at the end of his first year in Philadelphia, but the loaded 76ers wound up falling to the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1977 NBA Finals (this dunk on Bill Walton probably eased the pain of losing to some extent). Two more Finals losses would come in the years that followed, but five-plus years after Erving's infamous "We Owe You One" commercial, he and Sixers rolled to the 1983 NBA championship.
Erving is frequently lauded as one of the best in-game dunkers of all time (and rightly so), but that statement doesn't do justice to the rest of his game. All things considered, he was a pretty talented off-ball defender, and his length and athleticism led to Erving grabbing more than his fair share of rebounds.
Erving's length also helped him give a three-piece (and a biscuit) to Larry Bird back in 1984. That alone would have been enough to earn a place on the Sixers' Mt. Rushmore, but the title a year earlier doesn't hurt his case, either.
3) Charles Barkley
Notable accomplishments as a Sixer: 23.3 PPG, 11.6 RPG, 3.7 APG, 57.6 FG%, 7x All-NBA selection, 1x rebounding title (1986-87), infinity quotes (many of which were unprintable in their unedited form)
Charles Wade Barkley: Terrific basketball player. Terrible golfer.
I'm thoroughly convinced that Barkley is listed at 6'6" so as not to anger the 6'9" and 6'10" power forwards who were unable check him on both ends of the court.
We all know that Barkley is no more than 6'4" and some change, yet he routinely out-rebounded and out-worked men several inches taller. "The Round Mound Of Rebound" was one of the few players in the NBA who could box out like a center, dribble down the court with the skill of a point guard, and barrel down the lane for a highlight-quality dunk.
The Sixers didn't make much noise in the playoffs during Barkley's tenure, but very little of the blame can be put on his shoulders. Barkley is a first-ballot selection for the "It's A Damn Shame He Didn't Get A Chance To Play With Better Talent In His Early Years" Hall of Fame. Moses Malone, Julius Erving and Andrew Toney were all at the tail ends of their respective careers when Barkley arrived in the summer of 1984, and by the time Barkley reached his prime, his most talented teammate was... Hersey Hawkins.
It should be noted that Barkley's time in Philadelphia wasn't without incident. He once slapped a fan, punched another one in the nose, tried to spit on another (accidentally hitting a little girl in the process), and accused the Sixers of not wanting to have an all-black team. Oh... and he was the only person who has ever been misquoted in their own autobiography.
Of course, the Sixers didn't necessarily pay Barkley to be a role model. They paid him to wreak havoc on a basketball court. And that's exactly what he did for the first eight seasons of his career.
Notable accomplishments as a Sixer: 27.6 PPG, 6.2 APG, 3.7 RPG, 2.2 SPG, 4x scoring champ (1998-99, 2000-01, 2001-02, 2004-05), 3x steals champ (2000-01, 2001-02, 2002-03), 7x All-NBA selection, 1 MVP (2000-01), uttered the word "practice" 24 times during an infamous interview
If the advanced stats movement had happened 15 years earlier, finding fault with Allen Iverson would have been a common exercise in the analytic community. But when you cut through the numbers and the noise, the fact remains that Iverson is one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history.
It's a shame that Iverson's legacy largely centers on one press conference at the end of a disappointing season. More time has been spent recycling the "We're talking about practice" soundbite than celebrating the achievements of a man who is arguably the best undersized player the Association has ever seen.
Listed at 6'0" and 165 pounds (both of which may be generous), Iverson made a living attacking the basket with no regard for human life (which, in most cases, was his own). No player that small and that "bony as hell" had any business dominating the NBA, but that's exactly what he did for an extended stretch in the early part of the 2000s.
Iverson certainly had no business carrying the 2000-01 Sixers to the NBA Finals. No team that started Jumaine Jones for 14 playoff games should have even come close to winning a championship. Point to Iverson's inefficiency all you want: It's nothing short of a miracle that the 76ers were three games away from leading a parade down Broad Street.
Unfortunately, that was Iverson's best (and only) chance at NBA immortality. The never-ending search to find the Biden to A.I.'s Obama led to a veritable rogues gallery of over-the-hill has-beens (Derrick Coleman, Glenn Robinson, Chris Webber) and never-weres (Keith Van Horn, Tim Thomas, Larry Hughes). During that era, the search for Iverson's running mate was only slightly more stable than the name on the front of the CoreStates/First Union/Wachovia Center.
He may have been known as "The Answer", but Iverson's career will always be defined by one question: "What if the Sixers had given him a talented supporting cast?"
Did we get it right? Who would make your version of the Sixers' Mt. Rushmore?