When Erving came to Philadelphia prior to the 1976-77 season, a championship was predicted for the 76ers. While Philly did make three trips to the NBA Finals in Dr. J’s first six years with the team, the title continued to elude them. But when Moses Malone, the league’s MVP, played out his option and became available as a free agent, Philadelphia swooped in and signed him, giving up Caldwell Jones and a first-round draft pick to Houston as compensation.
Once Malone was in tow, there seemed to be renewed promise that Philadelphia would finally be able to get past the Celtics and Lakers.
The Sixers dominated the league from the start, winning a league-best 65 games behind the play of Malone (who would add a third MVP trophy to his cabinet), Julius Erving and Bobby Jones, who won the inaugural Sixth Man Award. In other award news, Bucks guard Sidney Moncrief won the inaugural Defensive Player of the Year Award.
When asked how Philadelphia would perform in the Playoffs, Malone issued what would become a famous prediction: “Fo’, Fo’, Fo’,” meaning that the 76ers would win each round in a sweep on its way to the championship.
But the Lakers would have something to say about that. Bolstered by the addition of smooth forward James Worthy, the top pick in the 1982 Draft, the Lakers won 58 games and another Pacific Division title, their third in four years. But in the last week of the season, Worthy fractured his leg coming down from a tip-in. It would be a bad break for the Lakers’ repeat hopes.
In the playoffs, the Lakers easily moved past Portland and San Antonio to advance to The Finals. The 76ers swept the Knicks and defeated Milwaukee in five games to meet the Lakers. But Los Angeles, already without Worthy, were without Norm Nixon and Bob McAdoo for much of the Finals and Philadelphia swept to its first title since the days of Wilt Chamberlain. Malone’s prediction had to be updated to `Fo’, Fi’, Fo’ for the championship rings.
“Let’s not make believe,” said 76ers coach Billy Cunningham, a member of the 76ers’ last title team in 1967. “The difference from last year was Moses. He gave us the consistency inside that the Lakers had always gotten from Abdul-Jabbar. We got that and more from Moses.”
Eastern Conference first round
New York defeated New Jersey (2-0)
Boston defeated Atlanta (2-1)
Western Conference first round
Portland defeated Seattle (2-0)
Denver defeated Phoenix (2-1)
Eastern Conference semifinals
Philadelphia defeated New York (4-0)
Milwaukee defeated Boston (4-0)
Western Conference semifinals
Los Angeles Lakers defeated Portland (4-1)
San Antonio defeated Denber (4-1)
Eastern Conference finals
Philadelphia defeated Milwaukee (4-1)
Western Conference finals
Los Angeles Lakers defeated San Antonio (4-2)
Philadelphia defeated Los Angeles Lakers (4-0)
Points — Alex English, Denver Nuggets (28.4)
Assists — Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers (9.1)
Rebounds — Moses Malone, Philadelphia 76ers (15.3)
Steals — Micheal Ray Richardson, Golden State Warriors/New Jersey Nets(2.84)
Blocks — Tree Rollins, Atlanta Hawks (4.29)
FG % — Artis Gilmore, Chicago Bulls (62.6)
FT % — Calvin Murphy, Houston Rockets (92.0)
3PT % — Mike Dunleavy, San Antonio Spurs (34.5)
Most Valuable Player — Moses Malone, Philadelphia 76ers
Rookie of the Year — Terry Cummings, San Diego Clippers
Defensive Player of the Year — Sidney Moncrief, Milwaukee Bucks
Sixth Man of the Year — Bobby Jones, Philadelphia 76ers
Coach of the Year — Don Nelson, Milwaukee Bucks
All-Star Game MVP — Julius Erving, Philadelphia 76ers
Finals MVP — Moses Malone, Philadelphia 76ers