After coming close for several seasons with Caldwell Jones and Darryl Dawkins at center, the Philadelphia 76ers decided prior to the 1982-83 season that if they were to go all the way, they had to upgrade their pivot play.
So they went after the best: Moses Malone, who had led an otherwise weak Houston team to the NBA Finals in 1981 and was coming off a year in which he had averaged a career-high 31.1 ppg and a league-leading 14.7 rpg for the Rockets. The Sixers signed Malone, a veteran free agent, to a lucrative offer sheet during the offseason. The Rockets, deciding they couldn't afford either to keep Malone or let him get away for nothing, matched the offer and then traded him to Philadelphia for Jones and a first-round draft pick.
Philadelphia finally had its missing ingredient. Malone's physical presence and tireless rebounding took the pressure off the rest of the 76ers, and the team jelled as never before. Malone was MVP for the second year in a row, becoming the only man to win the award in consecutive years for different teams. He averaged a team-high 24.5 ppg and a league-leading 15.3 rpg, and also gave Philadelphia a last resort: Whenever the offense broke down or got stuck, the Sixers would simply dump the ball in to Malone, who would wheel to the basket and either score or get fouled (Malone would make 600 of 788 free throw attempts, both league highs).
Meanwhile, Julius Erving averaged 21.4 ppg and was spectacular at one forward, joining Malone on the All-NBA First Team. Marc Iavaroni was the silent banger at the other forward spot, with Defensive Player of the Year and fast-break finisher Bobby Jones coming off the bench. Andrew Toney, a deadly shooter whose proficiency against the hated Celtics earned him the nickname. "The Boston Strangler," averaged 19.7 ppg and teamed with playmaker Maurice Cheeks (6.9 apg, 184 steals) in a classic backcourt. Clint Richardson and Clemon Johnson were other key reserves for Head Coach Billy Cunningham, who was emerging as a strong NBA bench leader with the able support of assistant Chuck Daly.
The Sixers raced through the regular season, finishing with a league-best 65-17 record. Heading into the Finals, Malone was asked for his prediction and responded with the classic "Fo', fo' fo'." Philadelphia came close to living up to Malone's prediction of an unblemished playoff record, sweeping New York, beating Milwaukee 4-1 and then sweeping a Los Angeles Lakers team weakened by injuries to Norm Nixon and Bob McAdoo in the NBA Finals. Philadelphia's 12-1 playoff record is the best in NBA history, and an amended version of Malone's prediction was engraved on the players' championship rings: "Fo', five, fo'."