Charles Barkley’s time with Philadelphia 76ers: The story behind his statue

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images)
(Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images) /

It’s Barkley’s team now

The departure of Malone meant handing the keys over to Charles Barkley for the 1986-87 season. It was now his team, and he was in control. Barkley, who was 23 at the time, had a lot of pressure mounting with the team’s new look.

Julius Erving was 36 and in his final year, nothing but a mere shadow of his former self. Former Sixth Man of the Year and 11-time All-Defense player Bobby Jones retired that same year. Despite the added responsibility, Barkley responded well.

He posted career highs in points, steals, assists and led the league in rebounds that year. A very impressive stat, considering his height. Despite losing Moses Malone and Bobby Jones, the Sixers finished with a 45-37 record. The Sixers went on to lose to the Bucks in the first round.

The 1987-88 season was the first season the Sixers were without Erving, who was the team’s identity for the last decade. Barkley was the new face of the franchise at this point, as the 1983 championship  roster was slowly fading away.

Individually speaking, it was a great season for Barkley. This was the season that Barkley would average the most points in his career, with 28.3 points per game. He also managed to get his first All-NBA first team. His success unfortunately did not translate to team success. The team would miss the playoffs for the first time since the 1974-75 season, and it was the first postseason that Barkley would miss.

For the 1988-89 season, Barkley would the lead the Sixers team again, but this time to the playoffs. He had a stat line of 25.8/12.5/4.1 throughout the regular season. The team did make the playoffs, but it was a very disappointing playoff appearance. Despite Barkley’s performances, where he averaged 27 points per game in the series. It wasn’t enough, and the New York Knicks won the series 3-0.