When fans think of the best Sixers players of all time, their minds may go straight to big men. Wilt Chamberlain, Moses Malone, Charles Barkley and Joel Embiid are some of the most talented players to ever step on a basketball court. There are obviously two revolutionary basketball figures that went to battle in Sixers uniforms in Julius Erving and Allen Iverson, players who changed the game both on and off the court and would be in consideration too.
There’s one dude who flies under the radar though for Sixers fans of a younger generation: Andrew Toney.
Imagine a Sixers player being known as “The Boston Strangler” today for his playoff heroics against the Celtics. There would be 5,000 annoying “We don’t deserve Andrew Toney” tweets every single day during the NBA season.
Look at these numbers from the 1982 Eastern Conference Finals. The Sixers won the series in seven games against Boston, the defending champions, to advance to the NBA Finals. The dude was a MONSTER:
That is CLUTCH.
Sixers fans, rightfully so, hold Iverson’s Game 1 performance in the 2001 NBA Finals in the highest esteem, especially with the way that season’s MVP won two hard-fought series that went to seven games before that. Toney similarly led the Sixers to a Finals appearance in 1982 with the way he balled out during the ‘82 ECF.
Toney, unlike any Sixers player of my lifetime, helped the franchise actually hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy. He was an All-Star for the Sixers’ iconic 1983 championship team. Malone came to town and completely changed the team’s fortunes, but Toney remained a key cog. He scored 22.2 points per game in the Sixers’ five-game series win over the Bucks in the ‘83 Eastern Conference Finals and then dropped 22.0 points per contest against the Lakers in the team’s NBA Finals sweep.
Toney’s career ended prematurely due to injuries, as he played his last NBA game at just 30 years old in 1988. It sucks. Perhaps he could’ve brought some of his mid-’80s magic to the Barkley-era Sixers. Talk about a butterfly effect.
I leave Sixers fan with the statement from 1980s Celtics player (and former front office executive) Danny Ainge:
“I feared Andrew Toney even more than Michael Jordan.”