Most of the people watching the NBA Finals featuring the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat are big time basketball fans. They’re also LeBron James and Kevin Durant fans. Of course, the people from Oklahoma City and Miami are fans of their respective teams.
It’s always nice to have a rooting interest. If you’re a Philadelphia 76ers fan, you can easily be Thunder fans in this series. And this doesn’t have anything to do with Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook. It has everything to do with Oklahoma City head coach Scott Brooks and assistant coach Maurice Cheeks.
Brooks is a great story. He was undrafted coming out of the University of California, Irvine in 1987 and had to go to the CBA and even the World Basketball League before getting his chance to play in the NBA. The Sixers were his first team. Jimmy Lynam was the head coach at the time. Brooks had to make the team and the 5-foot-11 point guard was quite a fan favorite. He played with the Sixers from 1988 to 1990. Charles Barkley and Rick Mahorn were his teammates during those years.
He played 10 NBA seasons with a number of teams including the Sixers as well as the Minnesota Timberwolves, Cleveland Cavaliers, New York Knicks, Dallas Mavericks and the Houston Rockets. In 1994, he played on the Rockets NBA championship team.
In 2000, Brooks started his coaching career as a player/assistant with the Los Angeles Stars of the American Basketball Association. The following season, he was the head coach of the Southern California Surf of the ABA.
Like his playing career, Brooks had to work his way up the professional ladder. He held assistant coaching jobs with Sacramento and Denver before joining the Thunder’s staff as an assistant in 2008 where he worked under P.J. Carlesimo. He was named interim head coach during the 2008–2009 season and was given the job permanently in 2009.
Since becoming the Thunder’s head coach, Brooks has emerged as one of the best coaches in the league. This is just his third season on the job. In 2010, he was named the NBA Coach of the Year after his second season. Last year, he guided Oklahoma City to the NBA’s Western Conference Finals before losing to the Dallas Mavericks, the eventual league champions. Now, Brooks has the Thunder in the championship round.
Good point guards make great decisions, and bringing Cheeks on board as an assistant was certainly a good one. Cheeks was a fan favorite with the Sixers. In 1983, he led the Sixers to the NBA championship, playing alongside Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Andrew Toney and Bobby Jones. He should land in the Hall of Fame some day. He has a lot of experience. He was a long time assistant with the Sixers under head coaches John Lucas, Johnny Davis and Larry Brown. He had two stints as a head coach with the Portland Trail Blazers (2001–05) and the Sixers (2005–08). In 2008, Cheeks was let go as the Sixers head coach.
It’s nice to see him on the sidelines again. Westbrook is the point guard for the Thunder. His play as the team’s floor general has been impressive throughout the postseason. You can see where he has benefited from the knowledge and experience of Brooks and Cheeks as well as veteran backup Derrick Fisher.
It’s nice to see two guys make a small market team into one of the elite franchises in the NBA. If the Thunder can beat the Heat for the league title, Brooks and Cheeks could wind up with rings not only as players, but as coaches, too. For Philly fans, that’s something worth rooting for.
Wali Jones is one of the city’s greatest basketball players. Jones was a big time player at Overbrook High School and Villanova, along with being a key member of the 1966–67 Philadelphia 76ers NBA championship team.
The sharpshooting guard will be recognized for his basketball exploits. Jones will be inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. The ninth induction class was announced on Thursday, July 19 at a press conference. The ceremony will take place on November 8 at the Society Hill Sheraton, 1 Dock Street.
“I’ll be there,” Jones said. “This is a real honor for me. It’s great to be inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. They have a lot of great people in their hall of fame like Wilt (Chamberlain) and Billy (Cunningham) who were my teammates with the Philadelphia 76ers championship team.
“I’m going in with some special people like Doug Collins (Sixers coach). Doug and I played together for a year with the Sixers. I know Debbie Black who played at St. Joe’s and in the WNBA. Harold Johnson was a great fighter. Johnny Callison played for the Phillies. Mike Piazza was a great baseball player, too. So, this is really something for me.”
Jones had quite a basketball career. He led Overbrook High to two Public League championships in 1958 and 1959. He played with some great players like the late Walt Hazzard, Ralph Heyward and Wayne Hightower.
The former Public League star played some great basketball at Villanova. He shared the Geasey Awards as Big 5 MVP (1963 and ’64) with Jim Lynam and Steve Courtin, respectively. He was named to the NCAA tournament’s All-East Region team. He finished his college career with 1,428 points. He is a member of the Big 5 Hall of Fame.
Jones played 10 seasons in the NBA with the Baltimore Bullets, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons. Jones was a starter on the Sixers championship team, which included Chamberlain, Cunningham, Chet Walker, Hal Greer and Luke Jackson. Jones also played one season with the ABA’s Utah Stars.
For more than 20 years, he worked in community relations with the Miami Heat. He still does basketball clinics for kids around the country. Every year he has the Little Bobby Jones Memorial Basketball Clinic at the Carousel House in Fairmount Park. The Phoenix Club of Philadelphia presents high school basketball awards on an annual basis to some of the area’s top players. The club established the Phoenix Award College Player of the Year in honor of Wali Jones. Michael G. Horsey, who organized the Phoenix Awards, started this award in 2011.
“I really appreciate all these things,” Jones said. “I had a great time at the Phoenix Awards. Mike Horsey does a wonderful job with the high school basketball awards. We had another good year with the Bobby Jones Memorial Basketball Clinic. It’s nice to be recognized by so many good people. I’m looking forward to the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. I’m sure I’ll see a lot of people from Philly there. It should be a wonderful event.”
The Philadelphia 76ers’ final home game this Sunday against the Cleveland Cavaliers will have plenty of significance. The Sixers will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the 1982-83 NBA championship team. The ceremony will be held on Sunday, April 14 at the Wells Fargo Center at 3:30 p.m. The team will be honored at halftime.
The members of the Sixers 1982-83 team expected to be in attendance include former players Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Moses Malone, Clemon Johnson, Clint Richardson, Franklin Edwards, Reggie Johnson and Earl Cureton. Also expected is Pat Williams, the general manager of that team, and John Kilbourne, who was the team’s strength and conditioning coach.
Pro basketball was really big in Philadelphia at that time. The Sixers had a great rivalry with the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. Actually, the year before they won the championship the Sixers had lost to the Lakers in six games in the NBA Finals.
The Sixers made a huge trade during the offseason to acquire Malone, an all-star center from the Houston Rockets. Malone joined Erving, Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney and Bobby Jones. The starting lineup was Malone, Erving, Cheeks, Toney and Marc Iavorini. Jones was the sixth man. That was a tremendous team. The Sixers sent four players — Erving, Malone, Cheeks and Toney to the all-star game that season. In addition, Billy Cunningham, Sixers head coach, was the coach of the Eastern Conference all-stars during that year.
The Sixers had a great backcourt with Cheeks at point guard and Toney at shooting guard. Erving was a spectacular small forward. Malone was a dominant center who could play defense, score and rebound. Iavorini was a power forward who did all the little things to help the team win as the perfect role player.
The Sixers finished the regular season with an impressive 65-17 record. They had the best record in the league. Malone had his famous saying, “Fo’, fo’, fo,’” on the Sixers way to the championship. The team came really close to that prediction. They finished with a sensational postseason mark of 14-1. In the first playoff series, the Sixers swept the New York Knicks 4-0. Then, they defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 4-1 to win that series. After that, the team got the brooms out again for the Lakers sweeping 4-0 to win the NBA crown. The 1982-83 team has the best playoff record in NBA history.
Following 25 seasons in New York, the Syracuse Nationals move to Philly in 1963, which is now 50 seasons of pro basketball in this town. The Sixers have produced some of the greatest players in NBA history such as Chamberlain, Erving, Malone, Cunningham, Cheeks, Toney, Hal Greer, Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson and others. The Sixers hold the third most playoff appearances and third most wins in league history.
NOTES: All fans in attendance will receive a commemorative poster of the 1982-83 team. Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter will present a proclamation to the team and declare the day “Philadelphia 76ers 1982-1983 Day.” Mayor Nutter will also present a second proclamation to the Sixers owners.
You want a Game 7? Well, now you have one. The Philadelphia 76ers will face the Boston Celtics on Saturday, May 26 at TD Garden in Boston. The Sixers are coming off an impressive 82-75 victory over the Celtics in Game 6 to tie the series at 3-3.
There’s nothing like a seven game series. The last time the Sixers played a seven game series was in 2001 when they defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Sixers have had some classic seven game playoff series with the Celtics. The history goes back 44 years when the Sixers surrendered a 3-1 deficit to lose to the Celtics in seven games. In 1981, Boston defeated Philly in seven games. The Sixers also gave up a 3-1 series to lose in the playoffs.
But the Sixers have beaten the Celtics in some memorable seven games. In 1977, they defeated the Celtics 83-77 in the final game of the best of seven series at The Spectrum in Philadelphia. Doug Collins, Sixers head coach, was a member of that team. Collins played with Julius Erving, George McGinnis, Lloyd (World B.) Free, Henry Bibby, Caldwell Jones, Darryl Dawkins, Joe Bryant and Steve Mix.
“They were a very talented team that year,” Collins said. “They beat us in Game 1. We went in and beat them in Game 3. It was one of the hottest nights in Boston Garden. I think I dropped 15 pounds of fluid that night chasing (John) Havlicek. I didn’t have a lot of fluids. We came back in Game 7. It was an ugly, ugly game. We had World. He was racking them up that game. He got about 28 shots up that game. It was all good. That was the year we went to the Finals.”
In 1982, the Sixers were on the verge of losing another 3-1 lead in the series, but went into the Boston Garden and came away with a 120-106 victory over the Celtics. The Sixers had a great team featuring Erving, Andrew Toney, Maurice Cheeks, Bobby Jones, Dawkins and Caldwell Jones. After the big win over the Celtics, the Sixers lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games in the NBA Finals.
This is a new Game 7 coming up. It’s a chance for Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young to be a part of history. If they can get past the Celtics in a series where Boston was heavily favored, these players will place themselves in a special category. The Celtics will lean on Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Brandon Bass to pull off another big win at home.
The home team is usually the favorite in these games. But there’s no guarantee. Three weeks ago, the Los Angeles Clippers popped the Memphis Grizzlies in a seventh game in Memphis. Collins just wanted to get his team to a seventh game after going down 3-2 in the series.
“We wanted to win tonight and give ourselves a chance to go into Boston and see what happens on Saturday in Game 7,” Collins said after Wednesday’s victory.
Collins doesn’t plan to just show up for the game. He wants to win. He’s not looking at moral victories.
“I want more,” he said. “We’re going to get greedy and we want more. We’ve fought. We’ve worked and gone through a lot as a team. We’ve grown. Our mindset is that I don’t want to go into that with no matter what happens everything is okay. I want to go with the idea of let’s see what we can do. Let’s see if we can go get us a win.”