Sixers History | Uniform Retrospective - One and Done, the Crimson Cummerbund 76ers
ONE AND DONE – THE CRIMSON CUMMERBUND 76ERS
Written for Sixers.com by @SixersHistory's Curtis Harris
Eight times this season, including November 16th vs the Utah Jazz, the 76ers will don the newly-unveiled City Edition jerseys inspired by the classic film Rocky. The uniforms are highly distinctive and stand out in Sixers history as the first to have gray as its dominant color.
Of course, every jersey in franchise history has some distinction about it. Otherwise, why change up the threads?
For a franchise that’s been around for over seven decades, you can believe the 76ers have indeed had a lot of different threads. With that wealth of history in mind, every night this season that the Sixers rock the City Edition Rocky uniforms, we’ll take a quick look back at a previous 76ers jersey.
The 1965-66 season was just the third for the 76ers in Philadelphia. Relocating from Syracuse to the banks of the Delaware River, the club had maintained a relatively tame look for its first Philly seasons. With PHILA stamped on the chest, some snazziness was found via stars encircling the jersey number on the reverse. Similar, in fact, to our current City Edition jerseys surrounding the uniform number on the front with stars.
Well, for the 1966 season, the team decided to jazz things way up with a total overhaul of the jersey.
PHILA remained on the chest, but it was now below the player’s jersey number. Even more radical was the cummerbund of crimson on the abdomen. Very flattering trotting out on the basketball court with a red band going around your belly. Finishing off the new look was a band of blue laced near the top of the otherwise white shorts.
Fully assembled, the 76ers’ home uniforms looked like one of those firecracker popsicles.
The road versions of these jerseys were somewhat calmer, but not by much. Although without the cummerbund, the entire jersey was now firebrand red and maintained the number-above-PHILA setup. As for the trunks, they had a band of white around the waist with the rest colored a deep blue.
Donning these new threads, the 76ers’ 1965-66 regular season was a spectacular success. The team went 55-25, the best record in the NBA. The .688 win percentage was also the second-best in franchise history at that point, only behind the 1950 Syracuse Nationals, whose 51-13 record translated to a .797 win percentage.
The regular season success was due to several factors.
First, Wilt Chamberlain, acquired mid-season in 1964-65, finally had a full year to integrate his talents with those of his teammates. Second, rookie Billy Cunningham carved out a superb niche as the team’s sixth man behind forwards Chet Walker and Luke Jackson. Third, the roster was further balanced with an offseason trade of longtime center Johnny “Red” Kerr to the Baltimore Bullets for guard Wali Jones.
This meant a starting five of Chamberlain, Jackson, Walker, Hal Greer, and Jones. Backing up the forward positions were Cunningham and Dave Gambee. And at guard, veteran Al Bianchi handled back up duty.
As for center, well… there really wasn’t much need for a backup center since the Big Dipper averaged 47.3 minutes and missed only one game that season.
The team truly hit its stride beginning in February of 1966. On February 9, this dynamite assemblage of talent sat at 35-21 after a loss to the New York Knicks the night before. The Boston Celtics were atop the division with a 38-18 record and the Cincinnati Royals were no slouches either with a 36-21 record. This meant the Sixers were 3 games back of Boston for first place with Cincy in the way, too.
Well, the Sixers rose to the challenge and finished the season on a 20-4 tear. Pivotal in the run was a home-and-home showdown with Boston on March 5th and 6th. The 76ers trounced Boston in Philadelphia (102-85) in the first of those games. Then in New England, the Sixers nipped the Celtics 113-110 behind Chamberlain’s 32 points and 30 rebounds.
With the Royals fading down the stretch, the 76ers rolled into Baltimore for the final game of the season, and pulled out a 108-104 win behind the tag-team brawn of Wilt (24 points, 26 rebounds) and Luke Jackson (20 points, 14 rebounds). The victory put the Sixers (55 wins) one game ahead of Boston (54 wins) for the slender, outright regular season crown.
For the torrid finish, Dolph Schayes was named the NBA’s Coach of the Year, Chamberlain was voted the Most Valuable Player, and the 76ers received a first-round bye.
Meanwhile Boston and Cincy had to pummel each other for the honor of facing Philadelphia in the next round. And pummel each other they did. The best-of-5 series seesawed with Boston ultimately winning Game 5 at home and moving on to face the Sixers. It may have been a-pummelin’, but the Royals series did keep Boston sharp and they suffered no injuries.
As for the 76ers, they enjoyed a mini-vacation. The season-ending game with Baltimore was on March 20. The opener against Boston in the East Finals was on April 3. That’s two weeks of no real game action and the rustiness showed mightily as Boston blew out the Sixers in Games 1 and 2. By the time the 76ers got their game legs under them they were in a 0-2 hole.
Clearly, that’s some deep trouble.
Remember, Boston had indeed finished with just one fewer victory than the Sixers. They were every bit the equal in actual talent. Couple that with the Celtics’ sagacity from winning seven-straight titles at that point and the Sixers were bound to have a dog fight no matter what.
The Sixers bounced back with a Game 3 win (111-105), setting up Game 4 as the pivotal contest in the series. Chamberlain was contained to a degree by Boston finishing with only 15 points (but also hauling in 33 boards). However, the Sixers roster rallied with a total of six players finishing in double-figures including veteran Al Bianchi dropping 20 points in 19 minutes.
In the overtime finish, Boston snuffed out the 76ers with a 114-108 win.
Down 1-3 in the series, Chamberlain unleashed one of his best playoff performances in Game 5 with 46 points and 34 rebounds, but the Celtics knocked off the Sixers 120-112 to win the series.
Thus ended the era of the cummerbund of Sixers. A brief, but important, stepping stone to the next stage of greatness.
For the 1966-67 season, the Sixers dialed down the clothing pizzazz and proceeded to reel off a then-record of 68 wins. With another regular season crown, the 76ers then dispatched the Royals, Celtics, and Warriors in the playoffs to capture the NBA title.
Obviously, nothing’s more stylish than a championship ring, but it sure would have been sweet if the sixers had won it all with the crimson cummerbunds.