With the NBA currently in a lockout it seems appropriate to look back at the last NBA lockout, the lockout of the 1998-99 season.
The problems of over a decade ago aren’t much different from the problems impacting the NBA now. As you might have guessed the problems largely involved money, salary cap loop-holes and the dreaded “basketball related income.”
The 90’s had not been a kind decade to the Philadelphia 76ers. Heading into the 1998-99 season, the Sixers had failed to make the playoffs all but once during the decade. Their lone playoff appearance came under then Head Coach Jim Lynam all the way back in the 1990-91 season. The next seven seasons would see the Sixers trade away superstar Charles Barkley, draft Shawn Bradley 2nd overall, and finish no higher than 5th in the Atlantic Division.
However, there was reason for optimism in Philadelphia. The 76ers had budding superstar Allen Iverson, whom they drafted 1st overall in 1996. They hired Larry Brown the next season, which helped improve the 76ers win total by 9 games in his first season as Head Coach.
However, heading into the 1998-99 season the Sixers were still seen as basement dwellers. It didn’t matter if they had a recognizable head coach who’d had success and perhaps the most exciting young player in the NBA.
The NBA lockout shortened the season to 40 games, something that benefited the 76ers, who were poised to make the playoffs for the first time in 7 years.
Head Coach Larry Brown was building a team full of defensive role players to surround the likes of Allen Iverson and rookie Larry Hughes. While Iverson led the offensive charge, Brown’s vets helped keep opponents to only 87 points per game. The Sixers had some success during the shortened season but as the end of April approached, they found themselves fighting for a playoff spot, and that’s when things started to come together.
The 76ers would go on to win 9 of their final 13 games on their way to that illusive playoff berth.
They would take on the Orlando Magic in the 1st round. Allen Iverson eclipsed 30 points in three out of the four games, including 37 points in the game four clincher.
Their opponent in the 2nd round would be Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers. Iverson would try to work his magic again, but it was not to be, and the Sixers were swept in four games. The games were closer than a sweep may indicate; the Sixers lost three out of the four games by four points or less.
The Pacers were heading to the Eastern Conference Finals where they would lose to the New York Knicks in 6 games. Of course, the Knicks were beaten in the Finals that season by the San Antonio Spurs.
In the lockout shortened season of 1998-99 the 76ers had found some success, and something to build upon. Little did anyone know that they were constructing the team that would go to the 2001 NBA Finals and capture the hearts of Philadelphia fans.