With James Harden expected to make his Sixers debut Friday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves, it will be 15 days between Harden’s first game for the Sixers and the blockbuster trade that brought him to Philly and sent Ben Simmons to Brooklyn.
Because of the All-Star break and a lingering hamstring injury, the long layoff between the acquisition of Harden and his first game in red, white and blue has made Sixers fans very antsy.
While Harden may be the biggest mid-season acquisition in franchise history, he is certainly not the only one. What are some of the greatest debuts in Sixers history?
Jimmy Butler — 11/16/2018
It may be cheating to include Butler here, as his actual debut came on Nov. 14, where he had 14 unremarkable points in a road loss to the Orlando Magic. Butler’s home debut two days later however, is worth mentioning. Jimmy Buckets dropped 28 points on the Utah Jazz, shooting 12-15 from the field, including a layup with 19.4 seconds left to ice the game. Butler added three rebounds and seven assists on the night, making his home debut worth a shout on this list.
Wilt Chamberlain — 1/21/1965
Another mid-season acquisition, as Chamberlain’s first game for the Sixers came against his former team, the San Francisco Warriors. Wilt did Wilt things, putting up 22 points and 29 rebounds, as the Sixers knocked off the Warriors 111-102.
Moses Malone — 10/29/1982
Malone was the final piece that the Sixers of the 1980s needed to push them from contenders to NBA champions. Philly acquired Malone for Caldwell Jones and a future first-round pick in the offseason. Malone’s impact on the team was immediate, as he dropped 21 points on 50 percent shooting and pulled down 17 rebounds.
5. Dikembe Mutombo — 2/23/2001
Mutombo was one of the biggest in-season additions in franchise history. The Sixers sent an injured Theo Ratliff to Atlanta at the trade deadline, and got back the perfect anchor they needed for Allen Iverson’s Sixers team. In a 99-78 win over the Detroit Pistons, Mutombo gave Sixers fans a good look at the center they just acquired. He gave Philly 17 points and 13 rebounds, but most impressively blocked five shots. Mutombo would go on to win Defensive Player of the Year for the 2000-01 season, the Sixers made it all the way to the NBA Finals before running into Kobe and Shaq’s Lakers.
4. Hersey Hawkins — 11/4/1988
The rest of this list will be players who made their NBA debut for the Sixers, rather than having been acquired from a different team. Hawkins’ career never reached the lofty expectations Sixers fans had, but he was still a high-impact player in the league. After trading for him on draft night, Hawkins dropped 20 points in his first ever NBA game, along with five rebounds, eight assists, and four steals, as the Sixers took down the LA Clippers 129-110.
3. Joel Embiid — 10/26/2016
This one is probably a lot more familiar to Sixers fans. After two hellish years recovering from surgeries, and contemplating if he even wanted to play basketball again, Joel Embiid finally took the court. After three years and a Colangelo Coup, the fruit of Sam Hinkie’s labor was seen. Embiid was limited to just 22 minutes, but the big fella looked like a star as soon as he stepped on the court. The sequence of his first NBA points falling on a turnaround jumper, then blocking Russell Westbrook on the ensuing possession is still one of the loudest moments in the Wells Fargo Center. Embiid would finish with 20 points, along with seven rebounds and two blocks and was serenaded with Trust the Process chants as he stepped to the free throw line. The Sixers dropped the game 103-97, but the Process had finally arrived.
2. Michael Carter-Williams — 10/30/2013
The trajectory of MCW’s career is weird. Has a player ever peaked so early in the league? In his first ever NBA game, Carter-Williams took it the reigning champion Miami Heat, as the Sixers won their first game of the season 114-110. Carter-Williams looked like the point guard that was promised, dropping 22 points, shot 4-6 from three, racked up seven rebounds, nine steals, and 12 assists. Sixers fans were prepared for a rebuilding year, but MCW’s hot start had some thinking that the Sixers were way ahead of schedule. The Sixers would start the season 3-0, before plummeting very back far down to earth, but Sixers fans will always remember Carter-Williams and Evan Turner dueling LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
1. Allen Iverson — 11/1/1996
Like Embiid, Allen Iverson’s debut would be a loss, but his performance breathed new life into the franchise. The Sixers were absolutely abysmal in the post-Barkley years, until a 6-foot guard from Georgetown made his way to the league. Iverson dropped a smooth 30 in his first NBA game, shooting 12-19 from the field, along with two rebounds, six assists, and a steal, as the Sixers fell short 111-103 to the Milwaukee Bucks. Iverson had a horrendous supporting cast in his rookie year, but he showed his unique scoring ability as soon as he entered the league.