Tuesday, January 01, 2008

25 Years of Philly Sports Hell: The Worst Moments, Part II

The latest in a series of of soul-cleansing moments for Philadelphia sports fans as we complete a 25 year cycle of unmatched sports futility. For a full explanation of this series, look here. Moment I appears here.

The last professional team hailing from Philadelphia to win a title? The Philadelphia 76ers (before fans of minor league teams ask again, no, I don't count those titles). Specifically, the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers of Dr. J and fo', fo', fo.

I loved that team. The starting lineup was unreal, with four All-Stars -- Doc, Moses (that year's MVP), Andrew Toney and Mo Cheeks (for anyone getting ready to ask, the fifth starter was Marc Iavaroni, now the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies). Bobby Jones, the best sixth man in the league. Vets like Clemon Johnson, Reggie Johnson and Clint Richardson filling their roles off the bench. 65 wins, and that was only because they took their feet off the accelerator near the end of the regular season, after SI had a cover story asking whether they would go for 70. Even today, I can remember how friggin' dominant they were -- they were the closest thing Philly's had in my lifetime to the 2007 New England Patriots (prior to my lifetime, Philly had the 1966-67 Sixers... how come none of our other teams are that dominant?).

Since then? Mostly crap.

Now, that's not entirely fair, since the Sixers have produced some playoff appearances, one unforgettable run to the Finals in 2000-01, and two once-in-a-lifetime unique players in Allen Iverson and Charles Barkley. But here's the funny thing -- most teams get special talents like a LeBron James (for example) and they turn it into a tangible piece of championship hardware. The Sixers have had two such talents in the last quarter-century, and turned it into one Finals appearance in that time.

Why? The moments that appear on this list, beginning with this one, will go a long way toward explaining. Every Philly pro sports team (along with some college teams and possibly a racehorse) that appears on this list will show up a number of times. The only one that will feature almost exclusively boneheaded front office moves is the basketball team, and that's saying something in a town where the Phillies once traded Ryne Sandberg as a throw-in.

But today's moment is perfect example of this team's insane stupidity. July 17, 1992 -- the day the Sixers traded Charles Barkley.

Yes, I know -- Sir Charles demanded to be traded. But can you blame him? He was probably around 6'4'' and won rebounding titles. The guy led the team in scoring and rebounding for six straight years, made the All-NBA First or Second Team every year he was in Philly after 1985 and was one of the few reasons to see the team after Doc retired. For his efforts, the Sixers signed guys like Charles Shackleford as support for him, after he dragged an undersized team into the second round of the playoffs each year.

Forgetting that... the Sixers traded Barkley to Phoenix, and all they got for it was Jeff Hornacek, Tim Perry and Andrew Lang. Maybe they should have asked for a T-shirt that said, "We traded a Basketball Hall of Famer, and all we got was this lousy t-shirt and three players no one will remember!"

Okay, that's not entirely fair -- Jeff Hornacek once made an All-Star team and twice won the All-Star three-point shootout. Hey, and he's also one of the few Philly athletes who shares my birthday! Hey, and Hornacek did play on two teams that made the NBA Finals -- after the Sixers traded him to Utah.

As for Lang and Perry, their most redeeming qualities were that (a) Lang shares a name with a prolific Scots man of letters, and (b) Perry once played at Temple. Yes, these were their best basketball qualities.

As for Sir Charles -- one NBA Finals appearance in 1992-93, two gold medals, the playoffs every year with the Suns, and hours of laughter as an NBA commentator.

As for the trade, the Sixers tried to cover for the stupidity of the trade by hiring Doug Moe as a coach (Moe, which of course rhymes with woe). To give credit where credit is due, this might have been dumber than trading Charles, because they actually gave Moe a multi-year contract. The coaching change occurred after then-coach Jimmy Lynam decided to move up and become GM -- about the same time as the Barkley trade, probably because Lynam knew that as coach he'd be forced to actually watch the gawdawful Sixers play ball. Moe only lasted 56 games before he was canned and assistant Fred Carter tried to clean up the mess. As a Sixers fan, I've blocked out this time in order to preserve my sanity.

The only redeeming quality of the trade was that the Sixers were eventually bad enough to draft Allen Iverson. Of course, we'll cover how they screwed that up later on.

Take a deep breath, fellow Philly fans. Let this one go, and let's move on to the next. Only 23 more to go.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I share in the mind-numbingness remembering that moment as well as all the other pathetic ones in the last quarter century of Philadelphia sports. As for myself, I have never seen a major Philly sports team win a championship (I was actually born in June of 1983, how appropriate!). Nevertheless the memory is still aggravating considering how losing Charles Barkley utterly sucked. Hopefully this cathartic exercise will allow us Philly sports fans to be in balance with the universe and then our teams can be champions again.

4:33 AM  

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