In years to come, when the greatest basketball teams of all time are discussed, the 1983 Philadelphia 76ers will probably be near the top of the list.
This team, unlike great 76ers, Lakers and Celtics teams of the past, has the flair, versatility and ability to scare the opposition out of its wits. That was obvious when the 76ers won the National Basketball Association championship in a four-game sweep of Los Angeles, ending with Tuesday's 115-108 victory at the Forum.
Counting the playoffs, the 76ers finished the season 77-18. No team has repeated as NBA champion since Boston in 1968-'69, but "we will," said the 76ers' Moses Malone, the series MVP. "Moses knows what he's talking about, too."
Julius Erving, 33, has two more years remaining on his contract, and said he will definitely be back to honor them. Bobby Jones, 31, is the only other 76er over 30. Malone is 28, Maurice Cheeks, Clint Richardson and Clemon Johnson 26 and Andrew Toney 25. The team's average age is 26.5 years.
One important 76er has indicated he might be leaving: Coach Billy Cunningham, whose contract has expired. He said he has contemplated giving up coaching and returning to his business ventures--a hotel, travel agency and fitness clubs in Philadelphia.
Some coaches need to coach. Cunningham--who in six seasons has compiled the best winning percentage (.701) among NBA coaches with 300 or more victories--doesn't.
"I want to enjoy this now," he said. "I don't know what I'm going to do. After this is all over, I'll sit down with my family and figure out what the best thing is to do."
Right now, the 76ers can simply savor their accomplishments, which Malone perhaps described best. He said he could see the Lakers "tighten up when we cut the lead to one point. They were thinking back to the past . . . See us coming again, coming again. The train was coming again."
In all four games, the 76ers trailed at halftime. They outscored the Lakers, 237-173, in the second halves of the four games and outscored them, 124-79, in the fourth quarters; Tuesday it was 33-15.
Now, Erving finally has his first NBA title, and he played an integral part in earning it. He scored seven straight points late in the game, first tying the score, then putting the 76ers ahead for good with 59 seconds left.
Erving had a steal, resulting in a three-quarters of the length of the floor driving dunk, a three-point play off a fast break and, as the climax, an 18-foot jump shot for a 111-108 lead with 24 seconds remaining, which brought the 76ers off the bench hugging and slapping hands.
Erving got the glory once again, but Malone was the force that made the 76ers invincible.
Malone, signed as a $13.2-million free agent last summer, had one of the most dominating NBA playoff series as the 76ers set a league record by winning 12 of 13 playoff games.
Malone had 24 points and 23 rebounds Tuesday, nine points and 10 rebounds in the fourth quarter.
He averaged 25.8 points and 18 rebounds in the games against the Lakers and 26 points and 15.8 rebounds in the 13 playoff games.
In those games, Malone was the leading scorer eight times and the leading rebounder every time.
For the Lakers, who have won two titles in four years, their biggest offseason concern is whether to retain free agent Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Abdul-Jabbar said he wants to stay with the Lakers, but wants a two-year contract at $2 million a year.
Owner Jerry Buss said there is "a better than 50-50 chance" he'll sign Abdul-Jabbar, but said he wants to go over his options first.
Abdul-Jabbar, 36, averaged 27.1 points and 7.7 rebounds in 15 playoff games--23.5 points and 7.5 rebounds against the 76ers.
The 76ers will be honored in Philadelphia Thursday with a parade down Broad Street . . . When they arrived home tonight, approximately 5,000 greeted them at Philadelphia International Airport. Among those present was Mayor William Green . . . By winning the championship and having the best regular season record, as well, the 76ers earned $35,208.33 each, based on 12 full shares. The Lakers each earned $25,208.33.