All Time Philadelphia 76ers Wine Bottle Team
What’s a wine bottle team you ask? The premise is simple. For anyone who knows their wine*, a Bordeaux wine is far superior from 1959 than from 1991. An athlete’s career can be easily viewed through a similar lens. Think of Michael Jordan from 1992-93 as compared to Michael Jordan from 2002-03. Both are impressive, but the former is to be much preferred in the construction of a wine bottle team.
It must be noted here that the concept of a “wine bottle team” is not an original creation of my own. Many others, notably sportswriter Bill Simmons, have followed hypotheticals in a similar vein.
While sorting through the entire history of the 76ers and selecting a full 15-man team would be fun, this particular wine bottle roster is going to be confined to eight players. The reasoning behind that number is that, barring injury, eight solid players is the typical amount needed for a team to make a deep push into the playoffs and take home a championship.
There will also be position restrictions on this roster. Of the eight players qualifying for the team, three will be guards, three will be forwards, and two will be centers. Without further ado, let’s get to the roster.
76ers Wine Bottle Team – Guards
Allen Iverson (circa 2004-05)
A.I. was an obvious selection for this all-time 76ers squad. Considerably tougher was deciding which season of his would be the best fit when surrounded by other all-stars on the court. Iverson’s 04-05 season was ultimately chosen because it was during this year that he recorded his highest ever assists per game at 7.9. His scoring average of 30.7 points per game led the league that season and he added an exceptional 2.4 steals per game as well. This season was also one of Iverson’s more durable years as he played in 75 of the 82 games while averaging a staggering 42.3 minutes per game.
Maurice Cheeks (circa 1985-86)
Iverson’s one time coach turns into his backcourt running mate on this wine bottle team. Maurice Cheeks cements his place on this team as a result of his defensive prowess. He was named to four straight NBA All-Defensive teams in the ‘80s, the season of his chosen above among them. Additionally, Cheeks averaged a career high 9.2 assists per game to go along with 2.5 steals per game in 1985-86. This abundant assist average is crucial since this squad will have a lot of scoring firepower. The 1985-86 season also saw Cheeks play in all 82 regular season contests.
Ben Simmons (circa 2018-19)
Believe me, I understand your reservations. Simmons has just two full seasons under his belt and only one made three pointer. But this wine bottle team is loaded at every position and all we’re looking for here is potential. I fully expect a later season of Simmons’ career to replace his 2018-19 campaign on this all-time team. For now, his 2018-19 is an admirable sophomore season in which Simmons posted solid all around averages of 16.9 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 7.7 assists per game. Most vital for this team will be Simmons’ perimeter defense against bigger guards as both Iverson and Cheeks could be exposed in a matchup against guards with significantly more length. Additionally, Simmons’ preference to be a facilitator rather than a shooter fits perfectly on this squad.
76ers Wine Bottle Team – Forwards
Julius Erving (circa 1979-80)
The first forward slot on this roster goes to Dr. J. While his best statistical seasons occurred during his stint in the ABA, Erving still posted mighty impressive seasons while playing for the 76ers. 1979-80 was the year he registered his NBA career highs in both points and assists per game, averaging 26.9 and 4.6 respectively. Dr. J added in 7.4 rebounds, 2.2 steals, and 1.8 blocks per game, leaving no facet of the game unaffected by his basketball skill.
Charles Barkley (circa 1986-87)
The next forward selection on this wine bottle team goes to Sir Charles, the Round Mound of Rebound. Despite being an undersized power forward at six feet six inches, Barkley worked harder than just about anyone on the court and made rebounding the centerpiece of his game. The season chosen above is when he was at his rebounding zenith, accumulating an astounding 14.6 per game to lead the league. He also recorded 4.9 assists and 23 points per game while shooting a terrific 59%. Similar to Dr. J, Barkley had an impact all over the court and also averaged 1.8 steals and 1.5 blocks per game during his stellar 1986-87 campaign.
Joel Embiid (circa 2018-19)
At a full seven feet and 280 pounds, it is certainly a stretch to count Embiid as a forward, and not a center. However, the contemporary NBA has proven to be an era of positionless basketball where, for better or worse, Embiid launches several three pointers a contest. Given the legends that will fill out the center positions below, we’re going to adopt the lenient approach (AKA the “Tim Duncan approach”) and label Embiid a forward. Just like Simmons, I fully expect Embiid’s true wine bottle season to come in the future. But truth be told, Embiid’s 2018-19 was spectacular in its own right. The big man averaged 27.5 points, 13.6 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per game while truly coming into his own as a dominant force in the NBA. Injury concerns may always nag Embiid as a player but here’s to hoping he has an even better season in the future.
76ers Wine Bottle Team – Centers
Wilt Chamberlain (circa 1961-62)
Could a legendary wine, fermented before the process was widespread and more readily known, truly qualify as the greatest wine? An analogous question could be applied to Wilt Chamberlain who, while unquestionably dominant during his era, also played against decidedly inferior competition. Further, both rule differences and pace of play aid the statistics of The Big Dipper. Even so, this roster would be remiss without Chamberlain and his mind-boggling 1961-62 season. It was this season where Wilt the Stilt averaged an NBA record 50.4 points per game to go along with 25.7 rebounds per game. One has to imagine that Chamberlain amassed an exceptional quantity of blocks as well…but those were not officially recorded statistics at the time.
Moses Malone (circa 1982-83)
The second center slot on our wine bottle team goes to Moses Malone, specifically the season he helped bring a title to the city of Philadelphia. This was but his first year as a 76er and he posted sensational averages of 24.5 points, 15.3 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game. His rebounding average that season led the league, something he managed to do a full six times in his career. Although never a very effective passer, those services will not be needed on this team.
Rebounding stands out on the above squad which features the ridiculous combination of Barkley, Malone, and Wilt. Meanwhile, one could point to outside shooting as a potential weakness of this team.
The Philadelphia 76ers have rostered many a legend during their long tenure as an NBA team. With the exception of the two most historical franchises, the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers, I think this wine bottle team has a plus matchup against any other in the league.
*You are beyond forgiven if you don’t know your wine. I certainly had to look that up.