The Philadelphia 76ers are starting a season with very high expectations. Of course, Sixers fans like myself are wishing for things like a playoff berth, divisional title and winning a round or two, instead of hoping for an NBA title. But it was quite a different story 30 years ago, when the Sixers won all of that and so much more.
This year marks the 30'th anniversary of the last Sixers championship team, as well as one of the most dominant clubs in NBA history. Older Sixers fans will get to look back on memory lane during this anniversary year, while younger fans like myself - who was born the year after 1983 - can wish we were around during that glorious season.
The 1982-83 season is the standard by which all Sixers teams have looked up at since. Only the 2000-01 Sixers came remotely close to living up to it, as they were the only ones to make the NBA Finals since 1983. But the 2012-13 club doesn't have championship expectations, although they do share one big similarity.
Both squads changed their culture by acquiring new centers. 30 years ago, Philadelphia found the final piece of the puzzle when Moses Malone came to town. With him and Julius Erving together, Malone had no problem blending into a club that had waited years for a championship. The chemistry was instantaneous and led to one of the most dominant seasons of all time.
30 years later, it is Andrew Bynum who is the big new center in Philadelphia. Now it is his turn to blend in and turn the Sixers into big winners, like Malone before him. Then again, Bynum doesn't have Erving or Andrew Toney or Darryl Dawkins to help him fit in. In fact, Bynum's supporting cast is more depleted without Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams, so they are as big of a question mark as he is.
Bynum likely won't lead the Sixers to 67 wins, or almost follow through on a guarantee of a perfect playoff record. But while the words 'fo, fo, fo' won't leave his lips, and while the 2012-13 Sixers may not be ready for a real championship run, there's no reason that they can't start building towards one.
It has been 30 years since Philadelphia has a championship basketball team. At the least, us fans don't want to wait 30 more years for the next one, and we'd like to know if Bynum and his new cast can get us closer. If these Sixers can start the process, then we may look back at 2012 with fondness - even if we don't keep celebrating it in 2042.
The modern day Sixers have never had a team like the one that stormed through 1982-83. We will inevitably be reminded of that more than once over the next several months - but it'd be nice to have a winning squad in 2012-13 as a bonus as well.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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