The 80’s is probably the most talented era of the Sixers’ history. Coached by the iconic Billy Cunningham, players like Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks, Moses Malone or Charles Barkley illuminated The Spectrum and the first three mentioned even brought a chip to Philadelphia. But to get it done, those stars were helped by a player that tends to, but shouldn’t get overlooked: Andrew Toney.

With decades passing by and the game’s perpetual evolution, a lot of players from the earlier ages of the league are inclined to get “lost in translation”. But Philly is Philly, and the city of Brotherly Love never forgets a brother. So, we’re here to remind anyone who might need it of Andrew Toney and while we reflect on the latest team to bring a title home, we’ll also explain why the Sixers have in Tyrese Maxey someone who could be our Andrew!

Andrew Toney, also known as The Boston Strangler because of how he repeatedly hurt The Enemy in Green, was drafted in 1980 by the Sixers and was a big contributor to the 83’ championship team. He averaged 17,5 points in his five healthy seasons and was named an all-star twice in 83’ and 84’.

All the greats who were part of the 1983 historic run constantly acknowledge it: without Andrew, there was no show, there was no ring. His feared mid-range jumper, his pump fakes or the specific-to-the-era elegance with which he attacked the rim were a nightmare to defend for opponents, and a joy to watch for Philadelphians. It’s probable that despite sharing the court with multiples Hall-of-Famers, Toney was offensively the second most, at times the most important player for the Sixers in the first half of the 80’s.

“I feared him more than [I feared] Michael Jordan.” Danny Ainge.

From their playing styles, the Alabama-native and Tyrese Maxey don’t have much in common besides their relentless and fearlessness activity. But if we look at what made them such unique players from the very beginning: determination, confidence, effort and class, we can see the first resemblances between the two. The city instantly embraced them and recognized itself in them, in their grit and their dedication, which instantly turned them into fan-favorites: not by being the face of the franchise, but rather by being the soul of the team.

Furthermore, Maxey and Toney both emerged in a similar way. They impressed in their first year, exploited all the opportunities in front of them and rapidly showed progress to become a significant factor in the chase of a title. As a sophomore, Toney averaged 26 points (!!) in the 82′ NBA finals as the Sixers still fell short to the Lakers, Tyrese also impressed in his first playoffs as a key contributor despite an underwhelming elimination.

In 1983, before Toney entered his third season, the Sixers traded for star-center Moses Malone and they went on to win the championship. For Tyrese, ahead of his third season and the first full year with James Harden, it’s also the perfect moment to jump to another level, and to propel the Sixers’ title hopes into reality.

The similarity between their career’s path should hopefully stop after the title. Because injuries deprived Andrew Toney of the career and recognition he deserved, otherwise he would’ve been widely viewed as an all-time great.

“Andrew Toney was one of the best players I played against” Larry Bird.

His prolonged unavailability raised some unwarranted doubts about his implication towards the organization. The relation between Andrew and the franchise went downhill from that moment, which is also why we rarely hear about him.

But the only thing that should matter, when viewing the legacy a player left somewhere, is how proudly and fervently he represented the franchise. Two things that both Maxey and Toney did/are doing with the same joy and excitement. 40 years after Andrew did, it’s now time for Tyrese Maxey to be the unexpected hero for the Sixers, by using all his upside to take some weight off the “aging” star’s shoulders and so-on, by granting Philadelphia fans what they deserve: a new banner to hang next to the one added in 1983.

 

Tyrese Maxey’s photo : Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Toney against the Celtics photo : Dick Raphael/NBAE

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