When it comes to storied rivalries in the NBA, few can match the intensity and historical significance of the playoff clashes between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics.
These two basketball powerhouses have a longstanding rivalry that has captivated fans for decades, marked by thrilling contests, iconic performances, and a shared pursuit of basketball excellence. Let's delve into the captivating history of their playoff matchups, where legacies were forged and hardwood battles became legendary.
Early Encounters: The Birth of a Rivalry
The rivalry between the 76ers and the Celtics can be traced back to the early days of the NBA, formerly known as the Basketball Association of America (BAA). In 1949, the Syracuse Nationals, who later became the 76ers, defeated the Celtics in the playoffs to claim their first championship. This set the stage for what would become one of the league's most memorable rivalries.
1960s: The Russell-Chamberlain Duel
The 1960s witnessed a fierce rivalry between two of the greatest centers to ever grace the game: Bill Russell of the Celtics and Wilt Chamberlain of the 76ers. From 1959 to 1966, these two giants clashed repeatedly in the playoffs, producing basketball spectacles that captivated the nation. Their battles featured titanic duels, with Russell's defensive prowess against Chamberlain's offensive dominance.
The rivalry reached its zenith in the 1967 Eastern Conference Finals when the 76ers, led by Chamberlain, triumphed over the Celtics in a grueling series, ending Boston's unprecedented eight-year championship streak. It was a historic moment that solidified the 76ers' status as a formidable force in the league.
1980s: The DR and Bird Era
The 1980s witnessed a resurgence of the rivalry, as the Celtics, led by Larry Bird, and the 76ers, led by Julius Erving, continued their playoff battles. These encounters were characterized by high stakes, incredible individual performances, and a clash of contrasting styles. Bird's artistry and Erving's aerial acrobatics provided fans with a basketball feast.
In 1982 and 1985, the Celtics and the 76ers met in the Eastern Conference Finals. These matchups were marked by iconic moments, including Andrew Toney's scoring barrage and Bird's steal leading to the famous "Havlicek stole the ball!" call. Ultimately, the Celtics emerged victorious in both series, leaving a bitter taste for the 76ers.
2000s: The Allen Iverson Era
The turn of the millennium reignited the flames of this captivating rivalry. In 2002, the 76ers, spearheaded by the indomitable Allen Iverson, clashed with the Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. The series showcased Iverson's extraordinary scoring ability and unwavering determination, earning him the admiration of fans worldwide. However, the Celtics proved to be a formidable opponent, prevailing in a hard-fought seven-game series.
Renewed Rivalry in Recent Years
In recent years, the 76ers and the Celtics have renewed their rivalry, led by talented stars such as Joel Embiid and Jayson Tatum. The teams have engaged in thrilling regular-season matchups and intense playoff showdowns, rekindling the passion and intensity of their historic rivalry.
Looking Ahead: The Battle Continues
As the rivalry persists, we are staring down the barrel of yet another iconic series, with the 76ers leading the current 2nd round playoff series, 3-2.