In the 1980s, perhaps the Golden Age of the modern NBA, they were the gold standard — the Philadelphia 76ers, the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers.
These three traditional franchises accounted for most of the must-see games. During that decade, the Celtics, Lakers and Sixers won nine titles, accounted for eight of the league’s MVPs and sent scores of players to the All-Star Game. Julius Erving, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Robert Parish, Bill Walton, Moses Malone and James Worthy made the list of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History announced in 1997. No force (other than Michael Jordan) was perhaps responsible for the league’s enormous popularity rise than these three teams.
Yes, times have changed. When the Draft Lottery is staged tonight (8 ET, ESPN), these three former kingpins will have prime seats. The Sixers have a 25 percent chance of landing the top pick, the best odds in the bunch. But the Lakers (19.9 percent) and Celtics (15.6 percent) aren’t far behind.