Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Autograph Tales:Philadelphia 76'ers

Billy Cunningham's card was in the first pack of basketball cards I ever bought. I followed his career from that point. A couple seasons after he retired, Cunningham became coach of the Philadelphia 76'ers.
Cunningham's Sixers were the Eastern Conference champs three times and won the NBA championship for the 1982-83 season. During Cunningham's tenure as coach, the Sixers never finished below 2nd place.
For the 1981-82 season, the Sixers lost in the finals to the Los Angeles Lakers. The Sixers were led by future Hall of Famer Julius Erving. Other stars included Darryl Dawkins, Maurice Cheeks, Bobby Jones, Andrew Toney, Lionel Hollins and Caldwell Jones. Supporting players included Earl Cureton, Mike Bantom, Ollie Johnson, Clint Richardson and Franklin Edwards.
Early in the 1982-83 season, I sent a couple cards for Cunningham to sign. A few weeks later, a big envelope appeared in my mailbox. The envelope contained Cunningham's signed cards and an extra bonus...a signed 8x10 of the team!
This was before the massive glut of through-the-mail autograph requests that have been happening over the last twenty years, but even back then this was a wonderful surprise. I would never imagine a coach (or a team staffer) going through the trouble to do this. This remains one of the coolest items in my collection.
A signed photo from the 1981-82 Philadelphia 76'ers-1982.

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