The Philadelphia 76ers are one of the oldest franchises in NBA history. Originally known as the Syracuse Nationals, the franchise relocated to The City of Brotherly Love in 1963 after playing in Syracuse for 17 seasons. With their rich history, which includes three NBA championships and 10 retired jerseys in the rafters, the Sixers housed some of the greatest legends to ever grace an NBA floor.
With a franchise as storied as the Sixers, it’s hard to pick five players that stood out. It’s inevitable that some will get left out and Sixers fans may disagree with the list. Nonetheless, we’re going to attempt to do it here.
Before we begin, it’s probably best to recognize some honorable mentions. Of course, the five included in this list already had their jerseys retired. That leaves five others who also had their respective numbers raised in the rafters. So who are they? Those are Charles Barkley, Dolph Schayes, Maurice Cheeks, Billy Cunningham, and Bobby Jones.
With that out of the way, here are the best five players to ever don a 76ers uniform:
5. Hal Greer
Hal Greer played his entire career with the franchise, five with the Syracuse Nationals and the rest when the franchise moved to Philadelphia in 1963 and became the 76ers. Consistency was the name of the game for the 6-foot-2 shooting guard out of Marshall University. With the Nationals/Sixers, he made the All-Star team 10 times and became a member of the All-NBA Second Team in seven straight seasons from 1962-63 to 1968-69. Greer amassed a total of 21,586 points (19.2 points per game) through his 1,122 games and averaged over 20 points in eight seasons.
An athletic, speedy two-guard equipped with a sweet-looking jumper, Greer provided the perfect running mate for the dominant Wilt Chamberlain. With The Big Dipper leading the way, the Sixers won the 1967 NBA title with Greer as their second-leading scorer.
Greer’s incredible career earned him a spot on the Basketball Hall of Fame. Likewise, he was honored in the NBA’s 50th Anniversary as one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. Currently, Greer still leads the franchise in multiple categories, including total games played, total minutes, total points, and total field goals made.
With 15 years of elite consistency and multiple franchise records, topped with a championship, Greer certainly deserves recognition as one of the greatest Sixers ever.
4. Moses Malone
The late Moses Malone only played five seasons with the Sixers, with one coming near the end of his career. However, his short tenure in Philadelphia, especially from 1982 to 1986, should not short-change the impact he had on the team.
The Sixers lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1982 Finals. Looking to find a matchup for Lakers superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Philadelphia acquired Malone in the succeeding off-season. The move instantly paid its dividends as the Sixers won the championship in 1983. Not only did they win, but they redeemed their loss from last year in convincing fashion by sweeping the Lakers in the Finals. Malone won Finals MVP, in addition to his regular-season MVP.
The following season, Malone won his second straight MVP award with the Sixers. The 6-foot-10 center averaged 23.9 points and 13.4 rebounds through his dominant four seasons with Philadelphia. Despite a short tenure, Malone accomplished a lot with the Sixers. Those accomplishments are enough to warrant a top-4 spot on this list.
3. Wilt Chamberlain
Like Malone, Wilt Chamberlain also had a short tenure with the Sixers, spanning just three-and-a-half seasons. Nonetheless, that shouldn’t discount his standing as one of the all-time Sixers greats.
Chamberlain had played in Philly to start his career, but that was with the Philadelphia Warriors. Most of the mind-boggling numbers he put up, including the 50-point, 25-rebound season, and 100-point game, came with the Warriors. So, those accolades aren’t included in Sixers’ conversations.
Nonetheless, the all-time great still accomplished a lot in his short stint with the franchise. In 277 games with Philadelphia, Chamberlain averaged 27.6 points and 11.4 rebounds. He also won league MVP three straight seasons from 1966 to 1968 with the Sixers. Most importantly, he led the Sixers to the 1967 championship alongside Hal Greer and a steady cast of supporting players. To this day, Chamberlain still holds the franchise record for rebounds per game, at 23.9 rebounds.
Though his time with the Sixers was short-lived, Chamberlain still made a massive impact with the franchise and deserves a top-3 spot on this list.
2. Allen Iverson
Some may find it questionable that Allen Iverson is above Wilt Chamberlain on this list. The feisty 6-foot guard never won a championship for the Sixers, and quite frankly, did not have much team success either. However, what Iverson meant to the city of Philadelphia is arguably second to none.
Entering the NBA with cornrows and tattoos, Iverson became a cultural icon, not just for Philadelphia, but for the entire NBA. Sixers fans fell in love with his unrelenting heart and passion for the game. A 6-foot, 165-lb. guard, Iverson never backed down from anybody and became one of the league’s best scorers. He often found himself taking a hard crash to the floor after being knocked down by bigger bodies in the paint. However, that did not stop the little man from getting back up and continuously going hard to the rack on every single possession.
One minute of Allen Iverson to start your day!
— E (@emcdaniel612) May 18, 2021
The Answer’s numbers with the Sixers speak for themselves. Through 11 seasons, the Georgetown standout averaged 27.6 points and 6.1 assists, while playing taking a beating for over 41 minutes a night. He also owns the record for the second-most total points in franchise history, while also ranking first in three-pointers made, second in steals, and third in assists, among others.
Iverson’s best run with the Sixers came in the 2000-01 season, where he won his only MVP award. Surrounded by a cast of role players and journeymen, Iverson led Philadelphia to the NBA Finals, where they faced the juggernaut defending champion Los Angeles Lakers. The Sixers pulled off a Game 1 upset, dealing Shaq, Kobe, and company their first loss of the playoffs. Though the Lakers eventually won the next four, NBA fans still remember how the Sixers, led by their MVP in Iverson, took down the Lakers — even if it was just for one game.
Without a doubt, that 2001 season became Iverson’s defining point for his career as that’s the highest he ever got to. Despite finishing his career without giving Philadelphia a title, he is undoubtedly a top-two 76ers player of all time.
1. Julius Erving
“Dr. J” Julius Erving is undoubtedly the greatest 76ers player ever. More than that, he’s an NBA icon. Like Iverson, he spent 11 seasons with the franchise, and in all those seasons, he made the All-Star team. Erving also won league MVP in 1980-81. What separates him from Iverson, however, is that he actually reached the mountaintop in 1983.
Initially establishing his star in the ABA, Erving instantly made an impact when he joined the Sixers in the 1976-77 season. That same year, he led Philadelphia to the NBA Finals. Unfortunately, they succumbed to the Portland Trail Blazers, despite racing out to a 2-0 lead in the series. After years of heartbreak, they eventually got over the hump after acquiring Moses Malone in the 1982 off-season and won the 1983 NBA championship to cap off one of the most dominant seasons in NBA history.
May 22, 1983: Julius Erving dunks on Magic Johnson in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.
— NBA Cobwebs (@NBACobwebs) May 22, 2021
Erving certainly played a huge role for them that season, though Moses Malone both won regular-season MVP and Finals MVP. Nonetheless, Dr. J was still the face of the franchise, leading a loaded group that included Andrew Toney, Maurice Cheeks, and Bobby Jones.
Erving made the All-NBA First team five times and the All-NBA team two times. He finished his Sixers career with averages of 22.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.5 blocks. To this day, Dr. J still holds the 76ers franchise record for total blocks and is fourth in total points and games played.
So, sustained excellence and longevity to go along with an MVP and a championship? That definitely warrants the title as the best Philadelphia 76ers player ever.