Appellate Judge Dave Ryan needs the rock, baby. Get him the rock!
"Just as I am the king of the microphone, so's Dr. J and Moses Malone"—Kurtis Blow
This disc, part of the NBA's Dynasty Series covering the histories of some of the…well…more popular NBA teams (let's just say that Vancouver/Memphis Grizzlies: The Complete History probably isn't forthcoming…), is a decent overview of the fairly storied history of the Sixers. Unfortunately, it feels a bit thrown together, featuring a number of disconnected documentary bits strung together with no connective tissue whatsoever. It's not really a coherent story of the team's triumphs and tragedies; it's more a collection of interesting bits, all of which deal with the Sixers. It's hard not to compare it—unfavorably—to the NFL's equivalent collection for the Philadelphia Eagles (which I also reviewed once upon a time). That set had a narrative thread. This one doesn't. Nevertheless, there's a lot of content here for diehard hoopheads, and true blue Sixers fans should be pleased by the copious content presented here.
There are two distinct eras of professional basketball in Philly. The Philadelphia Warriors were the City of Brotherly Love's original entry in the fledgling NBA. In 1962, however, the Warriors up and moved to San Francisco. Into the void stepped the former Syracuse Nationals, who were promptly renamed the Philadelphia 76ers for their first season in 1963. This set focuses primarily on the latter era, giving relatively short shrift to the Warriors and their accomplishments. (Probably understandable, given that the Warriors are still around and may want their own disc set one of these days.)
The main documentary feature, hosted by Sixer great Darryl "Chocolate Thunder" Dawkins (who, as everyone who's anyone knows, hails from the Planet Lovetron), does a good job of touching on all the major events in the Sixer era, most of which somehow revolve around Julius Erving. When push comes to shove, Dr. J is Philadelphia basketball. Before he arrived, the Sixers were a talented club that regularly finished somewhere behind the Knicks, Celtics, or Bucks. Erving, the unquestioned star of the failed ABA, revitalized the franchise and made it a perpetual contender. It ultimately took until 1983 for the Sixers to finally break through and win a championship, but throughout the '70s, so long as Dr. J was on the court, the Sixers were dangerous. While the documentary naturally spends a lot of time on the Erving era, it doesn't spend much time on the current Sixers teams, which was a bit surprising.
The documentary is only the tip of the iceberg with this disc, though. There are featurettes on seven Sixer greats: Wilt Chamberlain, Dr. J, Dawkins, Mo Cheeks, Moses Malone, Charles Barkley, and Allen Iverson. Four featurettes go in depth into individual Sixer seasons. (The most interesting is a 1975 pre-season preview film for the 1975-76 season, which was probably made in an effort to sell tickets. That season didn't stand out in the team's history, but the film is fascinating for its optimism and…well, its sales technique. I wound up really looking forward to the '75-'76 season. I hope the boys do well!) Two featurettes cover the Sixers' main rivalries, with the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers respectively. They aren't particularly interesting, and basically rehash information and clips that were featured in the main documentary. Finally, Dawkins hosts a featurette that discusses the current Sixers players.
That's just Disc One. There are five additional discs in the package. Four of them feature the complete original game broadcasts of four pivotal games in Sixer history—a great bonus for fans of the team. The games in question are: (1) the 1982 Eastern Conference Finals Game 7, where the Sixers finally beat their long-time rivals (and the defending champions), the Celtics, in a playoff series; (2) the final game (Game 4) of the 1983 Finals, where the Sixers won their sole NBA championship to date; (3) Game 3 of the 1990 Eastern Conference Finals, featuring Charles Barkley's 34-point performance against the near-unstoppable Michael Jordan-led Bulls; and (4) Game 3 of the 2001 NBA Finals, where Alan Iverson went crazy on the Lakers for 48 points.
Speaking of Iverson, the last disc in the set is a copy of The Answer, a previously-released NBA disc that tells the complete story of the talented but often troubled Philly guard. Like most officially-sanctioned sports biography discs, it's a bit of a puff piece, but it's good for fans.
Picture and sound quality vary depending on the source material, some of which is pretty old. It never becomes distractingly bad, though. The discs are attractively packaged in a fold-out case that features a disc index on the box. The discs with the full games on them are in those annoying one-on-top-of-the-other plastic holders, where you have to take both out to get to the bottom one. Oh well—I guess that's the way of the DVD world now, and it's no use complaining…
There's a lot of value for fans here, but you're left wishing everything was tied together better. There's a good story to be told here, but it's told in bits and pieces by this disc. That's a shame—but it's not a reason to avoid this set if you're a Sixers fan. This disc has a very limited target audience—but that audience should love it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• 1983 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 7
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