Haven't We Been Here Before

Both Dirk Nowitzki, left, and Bill Walton upped their games to defeat the favorite contenders and win NBA titles. (AP Photos)

Let’s see if I got this right:

♦ Superstar basketball player joins two other established stars on a team in a deal that involves a lot of cash. Expectations for said team go through the roof and the public wonders if there will be enough basketballs available for all the players on the team.

♦ Team stumbles slightly at the start, but finds its footing and becomes the team to beat as the playoffs begin.

♦ Team makes it way into the Finals and is a definitive favorite, despite having won just one more game during the regular season than its Finals opponent.

♦ Nonetheless, team wins two early games and its fans begin to map out parade routes in their head … when all goes awry, thanks mostly to a tall, scraggily, white guy who has taken his game to another level and teammates whose talents mesh in precision with his.

That team, of course, would be …

The 1976-77 Philadelphia 76ers.

Julius Erving (purchased from the New York Nets just before the season started) joining George McGinnis and Doug Collins.

Losing their first two games and starting 4-4 en route to winning “only” 50 games.

Taking a 2-0 lead over the 49-33 Portland Trail Blazers, only to see Bill Walton (averages of 18.5 points and 19.0 rebounds in the Finals) and company win four in a row.

For me, that Sixers team was without a doubt the most fun team to watch in Philadelphia sports history, even though it led to one of the most heart-breaking endings.