Sixers great honored by the organization and impressed with the current team

PHILADELPHIA, PA – MAY 07: Shirts line the seats of the Wells Fargo Center for fans before the Eastern Conference Semifinal Game between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers on May 07, 2018 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

The 1982-1983 Philadelphia 76ers team was special for many reasons. Recently, the Sixers organization invited the members of that team back to Philly to honor their historic championship run. 

Been a long time

The last time the Sixers won a championship, Ronald Reagan was U.S. President, the Mario Brothers video game was released in Japan, and Cabbage Patch Dolls were flying off of toy store shelves. 

For Sixers fans, four disappointing decades have expanded a gaping hole that can only be filled by another title, and the stakes this season are higher than ever. Perhaps the team could use a pep talk from those that last hoisted the championship trophy?

Before the 76ers matched up against the Bulls last night, members of the 1982-1983 championship team spent time with the current Sixers squad. Former players like Earl Cureton, Marc Iavaroni, and Julius Erving mingled with the younger players, offering encouragement and advice.

Secretary of Defense

Another former Sixer from the beloved championship team hanging out with the team was Bobby Jones. Jones opened up about the current Sixers team, and he reflected on his time with the Sixers, offering insight into how the team played defense that season and in the playoffs.

If you’re unfamiliar with Jones, his resume speaks for itself. In his 12-year career, he was a 5x All-Star, 8x First All-Defensive Team, and the 1982-1983 Sixth Man of the Year. On top of that, his retired jersey hangs from the Wells Fargo Center rafters, and he is a member of the NBA Hall of Fame since 2019.

He admitted, “My job, defensively, was easier because Moses (Malone) was in the middle. He would get in position and knock a guy down. He’d make it difficult for guys wanting to go into the lane.” Jones described the late, great Moses Malone as a “brick wall” and offered praise for his former teammate.

Jones, who hung his hat on tenacious defense and relentless hustle, explained how his long arms and anticipation helped him get deflections. That would help explain how he averaged 1.4 blocks and 1.5 steals for his lengthy career. In the late 70’s, he had two consecutive seasons where he averaged over two steals and two blocks, a remarkable statline in any era. 

His inspiration

In the NBA, Jones was given the nickname “Secretary of Defense.” When asked who inspired him to play such stellar defense, he brought up the legendary North Carolina Tarheel coach, Dean Smith. “Dean Smith taught me how to give help-side defense. Leave my man and go to the other side, take a charge, or try to intercept the pass.” 

Smith also taught Jones, “It’s okay if you get burned.” He elaborated in terms of if he overplayed his man and got beat backdoor. “It’s not your responsibility. It’s the guy on the weak-side to come and give help.”

The irony of his story is that his subsequent coaches in the NBA were also from the North Carolina coaching tree of Smith. As Jones explained his particular connection between college and the pros, he smiled and described Larry Brown and Billy Cunningham as coaches who not only recognized his talents, but preached the philosophy of defense the same way that Dean Smith did for many years in the NCAA. Brown was Jones’ coach in Denver, while Cunningham coached Jones in Philadelphia.

When questioned about his offense, he explained that he did not need to score much because, “In Denver, I played with great scorers, David Thompson and Dan Issel. I come to Philly, and there’s Julius, Cheeks, and Toney. I was free to do the other things.”

Looking forward

On the current state of the Sixers, he said he likes the way the team plays defense, bringing up P.J. Tucker’s defense and unselfish passing. Jones also likes how Joel Embiid is playing. He described Embiid as “more focused this year, especially in the fourth quarter.” 

He even compared Embiid to Moses Malone. The Hall of Fame forward expressed a similarity in game situations when it came to the two centers. “When the ball goes into him (Embiid), it probably should not come back out.”

Jones lauded Embiid for his “assortment of offensive skills.” He’s been impressed with Embiid’s ability to impose his will on opponents.

As for the Sixers’ chances of bringing a championship back to Philadelphia, Jones is optimistic. He believes that the 76ers “have a very good chance.” He recognizes that today’s NBA has more competitive teams vying for a title, but he thinks that the Sixers have the ability to “wear teams down.”

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire