The Philadelphia 76ers are recognized as one of the most storied franchises in NBA history. Philadelphia is a basketball-obsessed city with fans that are passionate about winning. As a matter of fact, Philly fans make it very clear when they are dissatisfied with a team's current situation. There is a reason why there was a media and fan uproar when Philly committed to tanking a few years back, although they did end up with Joel Embiid as a result. But clearly, the 76ers have always had winners from the likes of Moses Malone and Julius Erving to Allen Iverson and Joel Embiid.
Meanwhile, the Orlando Magic franchise has also had its successes mainly thanks to some elite big men in Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight Howard. Thanks to the dominant bigs, the Magic have made the NBA Finals twice although they were in losing efforts. Other elite stars have competed for the Magic franchise, and there has generally been a great player competing for them at separate moments in time. Obviously, there isn’t one at this moment in time and they will hope the 2022 Draft can change that considering they have the No. 1 overall pick. Considering their list of elite big men, they might take a crack at Chet Holmgren.
Which all-time great starting five per franchise would come out on top during a best-of-7 series? The Philadelphia 76ers will have a mix of inside and outside talent, with Allen Iverson and Julius Erving controlling the backcourt and a three-man rotation of Charles Barkley, Joel Embiid, and Wilt Chamberlain starting in the frontcourt. The Orlando Magic will have Penny Hardaway, Tracy McGrady, and Grant Hill to control the perimeter as much as possible while Dwight Howard and Shaquille O’Neal start in the frontcourt. Continuing our collection of all-time great matchups, here is the breakdown of the all-time Philadelphia 76ers against the all-time Orlando Magic, a series that will have to go down to the wire.
Allen Iverson vs. Penny Hardaway
Allen Iverson is one of the greatest Philadelphia 76ers players of all time, and other than Julius Erving and possibly Wilt Chamberlain, no player has meant more to the city of Philly. The fans loved Allen Iverson because he was not only an all-time great scorer who won 4 scoring titles, but he had the heart of a lion. Against a large point guard in Penny Hardaway, Iverson will need to use his quickness to his advantage and will be responsible for helping Julius Erving create from the perimeter and also attack the bigs in Howard and O’Neal.
Penny will try to take Iverson in the paint as much as possible because he has at least 6 or 7 inches over his opponent. With his ability to create his own offense and also set up his teammates, Penny will be a difficult player to handle and Iverson will need some help in defending the talented and oversized point guard. Hardaway’s ability to pass the ball will be huge because Orlando can trust him to make plays and also play off T-Mac and Grant Hill when he doesn’t have the ball.
Julius Erving vs. Tracy McGrady
Dr. J will make highlights for the Philadelphia 76ers, but that won’t be his main job. His role will be running the break at an elite level, creating shots for himself, and being a capable wing defender to guard Tracy McGrady and also help out with Penny Hardaway. An elite scorer with a career average of 24.2 PPG, Erving will be a go-to player for Philly for much of the series. Thanks to his elite athleticism and scoring ability, Dr. J will be the man for Philly for the fans and for his teammates.
Meanwhile, Tracy McGrady will bring his elite scoring to lead all players in PPG during the series. He will average 29.0 PPG during the showdown, although he will be forced into tough shots and will have a shooting percentage of 44.0%. T-Mac is an elite playmaker as well but will focus on scoring a bit more than usual because Penny will handle playmaking duties for the majority of the time. But McGrady will also create for others because that is a skill of his that was grossly underrated.
Charles Barkley vs. Grant Hill
The 76ers will have to go big, and Charles Barkley will occupy one of the forward spots. The superstar big man certainly played bigger than he actually was, because he stood 6’6” but played as if he was 7-feet tall. A powerhouse rebounder and paint bruiser, Barkley was an MVP for a reason and will be a force to handle for the Magic squad. Even if he is out of position, Barkley brings winning intangibles and size to his side.
Grant Hill is more of a natural fit at the forward spot, even though he was past his prime as a member of the Orlando Magic when compared to his stint with the Detroit Pistons. Hill suffered injuries that effectively altered his career, but he was still a capable scorer and playmaker from the wing spot. Thanks to his athleticism, Hill will be a strong option for the Magic on offense and on defense due to his ability to move around the court well.
Joel Embiid vs. Dwight Howard
Again, not a natural fit at the other forward position. But Embiid, thanks to his elite shooting and ability to create his shot, will find a way to be impactful. The 76ers will go very large with Embiid sharing the paint with Barkley and Chamberlain, and Joel will be one of the factors in rebounding and defending the rim. But Joel will also be a spot-up shooter for most of the time.
Dwight Howard is a natural center, but he has to shift over because of the presence of Shaquille O’Neal. Howard is an elite athlete who can run the floor and also crash the boards, so he will have to sacrifice a bit of his game to accommodate O’Neal. Even if Dwight won’t score much, he will own the paint with Shaq.
Wilt Chamberlain vs. Shaquille O’Neal
The marquee matchup comes down to Wilt Chamberlain and Shaquille O’Neal. Wilt is an athlete with extremely long arms and ridiculous hops, so he will be a go-to player for the 76ers offense. Chamberlain will run the floor, crash the boards, and also defend the rim with force. As expected, Chamberlain will average 22 PPG and 18 RPG for the all-time 76ers in this matchup.
Shaq has his hands full with the length and athleticism of Chamberlain, but he can bring force and paint scoring at an elite level. The matchup between Wilt and Shaq will captivate the fans because both players are natural centers that rank among the top-3 ever. No player will “own” the matchup, but they will control the series.
All-Time 76ers Advantage
The 76ers have ridiculous size. With a frontcourt of Barkley, Embiid, and Wilt, the 76ers can slow the pace down anytime they want and allow Allen Iverson and Julius Erving to slice the defense with dribble moves and shooting. With their size, Philly can crash the boards well. But they will have to box out Orlando’s bigs because Dwight and Shaq are too overpowering players that love to stay around the rim when the ball goes up.
The team also has the single best offensive duo from the perimeter in Allen Iverson and Julius Erving, because they can create their shots from the perimeter and space the floor well. There is no doubt that Iverson is a more talented player than Penny, and Erving is a better player than Hill. With two main positions as their advantage, Philly can diversify their offense just a little bit more with two offensive superstars. Of course, Erving will have a massive load on his hands with defending Orlando’s wing scorers including Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill.
All-Time Magic Advantage
The Orlando Magic have a more modern squad that caters to spacing and movement. Penny, T-Mac, and Grant Hill can do a lot with the ball in their hands, and Dwight Howard will find a way to make an impact despite being out of position. In other words, the Magic have fewer players who need to adjust and can simply go out and play. Penny is a natural point guard, T-Mac is most comfortable as a shooting guard, and Hill brings his all-around ability from the three-spot consistently. With Shaq at the center, Dwight can focus his efforts on being a secondary scoring option down low and a key defensive enforcer. While it won’t be easy, Howard will find a way to adapt.
McGrady and O’Neal are two superstar players who will be responsible for their team’s success, and especially T-Mac will have a big series. With his ability to shoot over defenders and create his own offense from the perimeter, McGrady is a major advantage for the Magic who can go toe-to-toe with Iverson and Erving. Shaq also tends to raise his game against the top centers in the game, and while Wilt was longer, O’Neal can match him with force and will be a go-to player for his side.
Who Wins A Best-Of-7 Series?
Game 1 goes to the Philadelphia 76ers, as they completely control the paint. Barkley, Embiid, and Wilt combine for 44 rebounds, and they literally take the ball out of the air every time it bounces off the rim. The team also benefits greatly from Tracy McGrady’s poor shooting, because the shooting guard goes 1-10 from deep and only shoots 39% from the floor. Julius Erving does his job on defense to his best level, the main reason why the tone was set from the get-go. Shaq and Dwight are left searching for answers after Game 1 because they have to impose their athleticism and aggression to come back in this series.
The Orlando Magic respond in Game 2, in a low-scoring affair, 99-92. McGrady comes to life in the second half, scoring 20 of his 30 points including 10 in the fourth quarter. T-Mac switches onto Iverson for most of the game, taking advantage of his size to shoot over the smaller guard and take him in the post. Along with McGrady, Shaq dominates the paint with a 25-point and 17-rebound performance. The Magic find a way to create their offense well, and Penny does a great job neutralizing Iverson on both ends of the floor. Joel Embiid is the only bright spot for Philadelphia, as he scores 35 points on 12-24 from the field including 3-6 from the three-point line, but it isn't enough.
The 76ers respond in Game 3 because Julius Erving and Allen Iverson go off from the perimeter for their team. Erving drops 17 points in the critical 3rd quarter which sparks a 23-7 run, and Iverson ices the game with a 12-point fourth quarter. The combination of Erving and Iverson proves too much to handle, as they combine for 55 points on 45% shooting from the field and a very impressive 11-15 from the line. The Magic find success with Howard running the break with Penny, but McGrady once again shoots under 45% which hurts their success. Somehow, Charles Barkley manages to switch onto him better than we thought.
Thanks to the brilliance of Penny Hardaway and Tracy McGrady, the Orlando Magic squeeze by in a 101-97 victory. Penny has a game-high 12 assists, taking Iverson in the post and also controlling the pace of play with excellent passing. He finds a way to get T-Mac the ball in strong situations, which results in a 33-point explosion from the shooting guard. Iverson contributes 29 of his own, but he gets taken advantage of by the bigger opponents he comes up against. Wilt dominates the paint with 31 points and 20 rebounds, but he shoots 50% from the free-throw line and also struggles to get his teammates going.
Game 5 goes to the 76ers, as they bounce back thanks to the brilliance of Julius Erving, Allen Iverson, and Wilt Chamberlain. Erving chips in 25 points on 3-4 from deep, Iverson scores 28 points and dishes 7 assists, and Wilt has another 20-20 double-double against the powerhouse Shaquille O’Neal. Speaking of O’Neal, the big man has 30 points in the game but cannot get the help he needs from anyone besides Tracy McGrady. The Magic need to win Game 6 or will have to settle for a disappointing loss in the series. Luckily for them, they respond with a convincing victory.
The Magic win Game 6 by an impressive margin, 112-101. They find their range from deep, as the three perimeter players combine for 12-21 makes from downtown. On the other end, Philly only manages four makes from downtown and also struggles to find their range from the court as a whole, shooting 42% from the field. Philly struggles to defend Orlando’s shooters, but they also have to accept the fact that the opponent is firing on all cylinders. Dwight Howard has his best game of the series, scoring 12 points and grabbing 14 rebounds along with 4 blocks. Shaq neutralizes Wilt Chamberlain, scoring 25 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. McGrady scores a game-high 27 points, and Grant Hill has a triple-double. Other than Iverson going off in the 4th quarter with 14 points, Philly cannot match Orlando’s energy and have to go to Game 7 to end the series.
Game 7 is a hard-fought game that goes to the wire, but Philadelphia wins the game 102-97 thanks to the brilliance of Julius Erving and Wilt Chamberlain. Dr. J scores 15 in the 3rd quarter and 8 in the 4th quarter, including a driving baby hook shot over Grant Hill to give his team a 3-point lead with 30 seconds left. T-Mac’s three-pointer with 18 seconds left just rims out, and Wilt Chamberlain grabs the rebound and tosses it over to the other end of the court to Allen Iverson. The Answer lays up an easy two, and Orlando effectively have to settle for a contested O’Neal hook that rims out and ends the game with a 5-point victory to the 76ers. Due to his brilliance in critical moments and consistency as a wing defender, Dr. J wins Finals MVP ahead of Wilt Chamberlain although the victory was most important.
Final Result: All-Time Philadelphia 76ers vs. All-Time Orlando Magic 4-3
Finals MVP: Julius Erving