When Mr. Editor-in-Chief Eddie Maisonet asked me to write about my hometown Philadelphia 76ers acquiring Andrew Bynum, he presented the following pitch:
Andrew Bynum, Big Men In Philly and Beyond: From Wilt to Moses, Bynum’s stepping into the holy grail … but what’s the buzz in Philly?
When I read that, I almost spit out my beverage and broke into a roar of laughter. The holy grail of big men? Philadelphia? Hardly.
While it’s true that both Wilt Chamberlain and Moses Malone are two of the greatest centers to ever roam the earth, MVP’s who led the Sixers to titles, calling the Sixers the holy grail for centers could not be more inaccurate. Why? Because the Sixers haven’t had a franchise center in more than a quarter century.
Since Moses left the City of Brotherly Love for the first time following the 1985-86 season, a season in which he averaged nearly 24 points and nearly 12 rebounds a game, the Sixers have had such legends as Tim McCormick, Jeff Ruland, Mark McNamara, Roy Hinson, Jim Lampley, Mike Gminski, Chris Welp, Bob Thornton, Rick Mahorn, Kurt Nimphius, Armen Gilliam, Jayson Williams (before he was good, and before he shot someone), Dave Hoppen, Manute Bol, Charles Shackleford, Jeff Ruland again, Thomas Jordan, Tim Perry, Eddie Lee Wilkins, Andrew Lang, Eric Leckner, Moses Malone’s corpse, Isaac Austin, Shawn Bradley, Alaa Abdelnaby, Scott Williams, Sharone Wright, Mike Brown, LaSalle Thompson, Michael Cage, Adrian Caldwell, Mark Bradtke, Tom Chambers’ corpse, Theo Ratliff, Benoit Benjamin, William Cunningham, Eric Montross, Rick Mahorn’s carcass (again), Matt Geiger, Nazr Mohammed, Casey Shaw, Todd MacCulloch, Stanley Roberts, Dikembe Mutombo, Samuel Dalembert, Jabari Smith, Mark Bryant, Todd MacCulloch again, Efthimi Rentzias, Amal McCaskill, Marc Jackson, Steven Hunter, Jason Smith, Calvin Booth, Shavlik Randolph, Theo Ratliff again (past his prime), Primoz Brezec, Francisco Eslon, Tony Battie’s carcass, Spencer Hawes, Lavoy Allen, Nikola Vucevic and Francisco Elson again.
Real murderer’s row of centers there, huh? Honestly, there are only a handful of even decent players in the bunch, with the best being Theo Ratliff, Dikembe Mutombo and Samuel Dalembert. And if you take longevity into account and put a gun to my head, I’d have to say Samuel Dalembert is the best center who spent more than a few years in Philadelphia since Moses Malone departed in 1986. No, he wasn’t as good as Theo before he was injured and traded for Mutombo, and no, he wasn’t as good as Mutombo in his year and half in Philadelphia — hell, Theo and Dikembe were both all-stars — but Dalembert was Philly’s starter for seven of his eight seasons as a Sixer and even averaged a double-double in the 2007-08 season. That essentially makes Samuel Dalembert the most accomplished Sixers center since Moses Malone, and Samuel Dalembert still really doesn’t even know how to play basketball. That’s just sad.