The NBA free agency frenzy has all but wrapped up and the Sixers have found themselves in a very comfortable spot thanks to fantastic work from General Manager Elton Brand.

And during this lull in NBA news and activity, it seems like a good idea to put Brand’s offseason work in perspective.  Throughout history, teams like the Lakers, Knicks, and Celtics have been able to lure top talents to their cities. Here in Philadelphia, this has not always been the case.  

However, Brand was able to sign five-time All-Star Al Horford this summer.  Whether Sixers fans think Horford will fit with this team or not, there needs to be a level of appreciation for Brand’s work.  So, in order to fully appreciate the magnitude of this signing, let’s take a look at five of the best free-agent acquisitions in Sixers history.

As a disclaimer, only players who were signed as free agents from other teams are included.  So the likes of Moses Malone, Dikembe Mutombo, and Tobias Harris, who were acquired via trade or re-signed, are not considered.

5. Allen Iverson: Round II

In one of the most emotional signings in Philadelphia sports history, Allen Iverson returned to the city of brotherly love in 2009.  Ok. Yes, he was 34 and it was the last year of his career, but there are few signings that Sixers fans appreciate more.

Allen returned to the Sixers in December of 2009 after being traded to the Denver Nuggets in the 2006-2007 season.  As a glorified retirement tour, he averaged 14 points for the Sixers and even made the All-Star team in his final season.

Iverson’s second stint in the red, white, and blue electrified the then Wachovia Center during a time in which the Sixers struggled.  And thanks to legendary commentator Marc Zumoff on TV, Allen’s first night back was unforgettable. 

The beauty of this free agency signing was the rebirth of the mutual love that exists between Allen Iverson and the city of Philadelphia.  For the front office to bring excitement and joy to a Sixers team that struggled, was truly spectacular.

4. Robert Covington

While number 5 on our list was about pure emotion, the theme of this signing was an incredible value.  Robert Covington started his career as a Houston Rocket and after they released him just before the 2014 season, the Sixers snatched him up on a four-year minimum contract.

The Sixers and GM at the time, Sam Hinkie, gave Covington the chance he needed to develop.  Over his four years in Philadelphia, he averaged 13 points while shooting 36 percent from the three-point line.  His calling card was defense, which ultimately led him to an NBA first-team All-Defensive team selection in 2018.

While virtually nothing was made of the Covington signing at the time, he turned into one of the best two-way players in the NBA and was well worth his initial $1 million dollar salary.  Partly thanks to him, the Sixers were able to acquire Jimmy Butler and later flip Butler for Josh Richardson this offseason.

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3. Al Horford

It is not every day that a five-time All-Star chooses to come to Philadelphia.  But Brand was able to make it happen. Al Horford is undoubtedly one of the best free agency coups in Sixers history.

Al is a proven commodity in the NBA and while he is a terrific player on and off the court, his signing represents more than just another piece to the Sixers championship puzzle.  Him choosing to sign here in Philadelphia should help fans realize that this city is becoming a serious destination.

Horford could have returned to the Boston Celtics where he had consistent success for years, but he decided to trust what the Sixers have been doing and buy into a championship culture.  It has been years since the Sixers have lured an All-Star caliber free agent to Philadelphia and by attracting such a respected veteran, the Sixers demonstrate that they are worthy of consideration from the best of free agents.

2. George McGinnis

The dark horse on this list is 6’8” big man, George McGinnis.  The Sixers were active pursuers of the former ABA star during the summer of 1975 and landed him on a 6 year, $3.2 million dollar contract.

At the time, McGinnis was sought after by the highly successful New York Knicks, but Sixers General Manager Pat Williams was not to be denied.  Over his three seasons in Philadelphia, McGinnis averaged 22 points and 12 rebounds while making 2 All-Star teams. With his fantastic athleticism and Kawhi like hands, McGinnis helped the Sixers reach the NBA finals in 1977 for the first time in ten seasons.

McGinnis helped pave the way for the Sixers as they entered a new period of success.  He helped make the team relevant again and began a strong connection between the Sixers organization and the ABA.

1. Julius “the Doctor” Erving

Arguably the greatest player in franchise history, Doc was the clear cut choice for the best free-agent acquisition in Sixers history.

Erving was purchased from the New Jersey Nets of the ABA for $6 million dollars in 1976 and he became the centerpiece of the Sixers next 8 years of success.  After landing McGinnis and Erving in consecutive seasons, the Sixers emerged as a strong pursuer and destination for ABA players, an important piece of the 1970s and 1980s NBA landscape.

Doc was a fan favorite with highlight dunks and incredible athletic feats.  The Hall of Famer made 11 consecutive All-Star appearances as a Sixer and averaged 22 points over that span.  He won the MVP award in 1981 and of course, his most important accomplishment was bringing an NBA championship to the city of Philadelphia in 1983.

Doc is still an important figure within the Sixers organization and will forever be one of the greatest players in NBA history. So when analyzing the Sixers offseason moves, think about this list.  Although some are concerned about Horford’s fit with Embiid, or his aging body, just be excited that Philadelphia is becoming a destination.

Elton Brand has shown he can lure top talents to this city and for years to come, the Sixers will be a serious landing spot for the best basketball players in the world.

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