The NBA just recently wrapped up its 75th NBA season, meaning that 3/4 quarters of a century’s worth of basketball has been played already. With a lot of history, it’s interesting to look at the various franchises, some who are only a few years old, and others who are older than the NBA, and look at their origins as a franchise and the identity they have built over all the years.
Why are they called the 76ers? The Philadelphia NBA franchise goes by the name “76ers” due to the city’s place in American history. In the year 1776, when America declared its independence, the Declaration of Independence was signed in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hence, as a tribute to that important piece of history, the 76ers also have a blue-red-white color scheme, to match the colors of the American flag. Variations of the logo have also included 13 stars, referring to the original 13 American colonies. The team is usually referred to as the “Sixers” as a shortened version of the name.
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What is the history of the Philadelphia 76ers franchise?
The Philadelphia 76ers were founded in 1946, as the Syracuse Nationals (in Syracuse, New York). The Nationals played in the National Basketball League, one of the few professional basketball leagues in the US at the time. They moved over to the NBA in 1949 as part of the merger between the NBL and the other professional basketball league at the time, the Basketball Association of America (BAA).
The Syracuse Nationals were a tumultuous team, with mediocre seasons followed by deep playoff runs and then back to another underwhelming season. They did manage to win one NBA championship in 1955 and had a few close heartbreaks in the late playoffs. One particular heartbreak was the nail in the coffin for the franchise’s time in Syracuse, as they made their way to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1963. This was not the city’s first NBA franchise, but rather, the Philadelphia Warriors had just relocated to San Francisco the year prior (that team is now known as the Golden State Warriors).
After rebranding themselves as the Philadelphia 76ers, the franchise managed to sustain some of the success they experienced as the Syracuse Nationals. The 76ers landed Wilt Chamberlain, an incredibly dominant center (who coincidentally was playing for the previous Philadelphia franchise), and they were perennial contenders. They had a fierce rivalry with the Boston Celtics and their own dominant center, Bill Russell. Chamberlain and the 76ers won the NBA championship in 1967, just 4 years after relocating to Philadelphia, and at the time were considered the best team in NBA history.
The success didn’t last much longer; Chamberlain was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers and the squad petered out over the next few seasons, to the point where they won a paltry 9 games (the worst NBA record in history, to this day). The fall from grace was shocking, but the 76ers bounced back when they managed to acquire star Julius Erving during the merger between the NBA and the American Basketball Association (ABA) in 1976. Another notable pickup was Moses Malone, and suddenly the 76ers were formidable, with deep playoff runs every year. However, the ultimate success eluded them many times, until finally the 76ers went on a dominant playoff run, only dropping one game, to win their 3rd franchise title in 1983.
That was the last championship the franchise brought home, with a near 40-year drought currently plaguing the organization. The time has been tumultuous; the 76ers went from playoff contenders to bottom dwellers, then back to playoff contenders, then again bottom dwellers, and are now in their playoff contenders stage. The organization has seen some dominant and unique stars: Charles Barkley, Allen Iverson, and now Joel Embiid. The 76ers have also had some of the worst lows in NBA history, with the infamous “The Process” 76ers nearly tying their own record for the worst record in NBA history, with a 10-72 record in the 2016-17 season.
How are NBA team names decided?
An NBA team’s name is an important part of the team’s brand and identity, making it a key decision for the franchise. The name is usually decided by the franchise or decided through a voting contest that allows fans to choose the team name (with franchise approval ultimately). For example, the 76ers name was decided using a voting contest
The inspiration for team names usually comes from the city or region where a franchise is based. The Orlando Magic are named after Disney World, while the Denver Nuggets refers to Colorado’s gold rush in the 1800s. Sometimes the team names stick despite franchise relocation: the Los Angeles Lakers team name originated when they were in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where there are a lot of lakes (Los Angeles ironically has no lakes). The same goes for the Utah Jazz, who originated in New Orleans, Louisiana, where the jazz genre has its roots.
Other times, team names are picked just because the name is cool, or the franchise like the team name as a representative of the franchise’s ideals, values, and/or style. Think names like the Golden State Warriors, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and the Washington Wizards.
What other NBA team names make a reference to American history?
No other NBA team has a name that alludes to the US or its history. However, the Washington Wizards, who are based in the nation’s capital, have traditionally had a red-white-blue color scheme that matches the colors of the American flag, although they have switched out the blue for a darker navy color periodically.
The Philadelphia 76ers may be one of the most interesting NBA franchises ever, with a long history filled with great highs and just as bad lows. Could this be the year where they add the 4th championship to their trophy cabinet? Or will they fall short at the end, or worse, completely come apart early on in the season? With this franchise, it is hard to predict what will happen in any given season.