The Celtics-Sixers rivalry is a rivalry between two teams of the National Basketball Association, the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers, that dates back to the 1950s. The rivalry continues to this day every time the teams play in the regular season and in the NBA Playoffs, usually with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line. It is considered by some to be the second greatest rivalry in the NBA next to the Lakers-Celtics rivalry. Cross sports wise it has been compared to that of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry with ironically the Boston team taking the spot of the Yankees in this case.
The Start Edit
The rivalry started when the Philadelphia Warriors were in the Eastern Division with the Boston Celtics. The Warriors drafted center Wilt Chamberlain in 1959. Chamberlain was considered one of the best inside scorers in the NBA and posed a serious threat to the Celtics. However, the Celtics had Bill Russell at center, who was one of the most dominant defensive forces in the NBA at the time. When these teams played each other in the playoffs, Chamberlain had good games where he would score over 20 points and grab 10-20 rebounds, but in the end, Russell and the Celtics would always win. Before the 1962 season, the Warriors moved to San Francisco, and the rivalry died.
In the 1964 season, Philadelphia brought in a new franchise called the 76ers. They were added to the Eastern Division and would therefore play the Celtics on multiple occasions throughout the season. After the All-Star break in 1965, Chamberlain returned to Philadelphia as a 76er, and a new rivalry was born from the ashes of the old one. That season, the Celtics and 76ers met in the Eastern Division Finals with a trip to the NBA Championship on the line. The series was a battle and went to a game seven in the Boston Garden. With seconds left at the end of the game and the score 110-109 in favor of the Celtics, Russell tried to inbound the ball when it hit the backboard which resulted in a turnover. However, the 76ers failed to capitalize because of a defelction on the inbounds by John Havlicek to his teammate Sam Jones. The Celtics advanced to the NBA Finals and defeated the Los Angeles Lakers in five games for their seventh straight title. In the 1967 season, the 76ers collaborated a then NBA record of 68 wins and 13 losses, and the Celtics managed to go 60-21. They met in the Eastern Division final again, but this time, Wilt Chamberlain and the 76ers beat the Celtics in just five games and advanced to the NBA Finals. They would go onto win the NBA Championship by beating the former Philadelphia franchise the San Francisco Warriors in six games, giving the 76ers and Chamberlain their first title. Both teams would continue to play each other in the post season, but the rivalry didn't have the same passion as it once did.
The 2nd RevivalEdit
The 76ers fell into a deep slump until the acquisition of Julius Erving before the 1977 season. They became a main contender in the Eastern Conference, but the Boston Celtics shortly joined them. In 1978, the Celtics drafted junior small forward Larry Bird, but he chose to return to college for one more year. When he joined the team for the 1980 season, the Celtics took off and advanced to the Eastern Conference finals to face the 76ers, but lost in five games. The 76ers, however, failed to win the title against the Lakers. The Celtics traded two first round draft picks for center Robert Parish and later drafted power forward Kevin McHale.
The Celtics succeeded in knocking off the 76ers in 1981 in seven games while on the way to their first championship in five seasons. However, the following year, the Celtics fell to the 76ers in seven games, but lost to the Lakers. The next season, the 76ers picked up MVP Moses Malone from the Houston Rockets. Malone repeated as the NBA's MVP and lead the 76ers to an NBA Championship in a four game sweep against the Lakers.
The "highlight" of this era of the rivalry was a 1983 exhibition game that featured 3 separate fights- Moses Malone/Cedric Maxwell, Larry Bird/Marc Iavaroni,and Gerald Henderson/Sedale Threatt. During Bird/Iavaroni, Bird managed to rip opposing coach Billy Cunningham's sportsjacket in half. The fight was reaching a peak when 66 year old Red Auerbach came down from the stands to restore order. Witnesses report him calling the hulking giant Malone a "big schvatzer." There was also a memorable 1985 choking match between Larry Bird and Julius Erving.
Both teams still play to this day with some tension, but the rivalry has not lived up to its past notoriety although that should change with the Celtics winning the 2007-08 NBA Championship and the upstart Sixers acquiring Elton Brand during the offseason.
The Boston StranglerEdit
Boston sports writers dubbed Sixers' shooting guard Andrew Toney The Boston Strangler because of his ability to take control of games against the Boston Celtics. He is remembered for scoring 25 points against Boston in the fourth quarter on March 21, 1982, at the Philadelphia Spectrum. Toney's 25 points is still the Sixers' team record for most points scored in a quarter.
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