In the end, the Sixers even sucked at sucking.
They ended their season Wednesday night just as they started it: with a victory over the defending NBA champion Miami Heat. Given that everybody knew going into the season that the plan was to stink up the joint as much as possible, those two wins are … unforgivable? Because they helped give the Sixers only the second-worst record in the NBA this season — which means the even more putrid Milwaukee Bucks now have the best chance of capturing the top pick — and, with it, perhaps a semblance of a future in professional basketball.
Still, we’re not sure this is the worst season in Philly sports history. Yes, it was bad, but everybody knew to expect it. It’s the stomach-punch seasons — where expectations and achievement misalign badly — that should count. And there are lots of contenders for that prize. Here’s a nominee from each of the city’s major remaining pro teams:
2006-07 Flyers • Record: 22-48-12
The Flyers have actually been a model of consistency more than four decades, suffering an extended absence from the playoffs only once, really, for five years in the early 1990s. Otherwise, not bad. Except for the 2006-07 team, which was meant to star a hobbled Peter Forsberg, and ended up with a league-worst record that set team highs for games lost, longest losing streak, and longest home losing streak. Sandwiched between two-half-decent playoff seasons, this one came outta nowhere — and went nowhere.
1945 Phillies/Blue Jays • Record: 46-108
Despite the last decade or so of success, it would be easy to just list the five worst Phillies teams here and be done with it. For the sake of fairness, we’ll stick to the Postwar Era — which the Phillies kicked off with a .299 record. The only reason this might’ve shattered any hopes is that the team (also known during this period as the Blue Jays, what the hell?) had just two years previously managed a .416 winning percentage — “hope” after the even more dire 43- and 42-win seasons of 1941 and 1942, respectively. Jeez, this team really sucked for a very, very long time, didn’t it?
1982 Philadelphia Eagles • Record: 3-6
It’s probably not fair to include a strike year in this list (it’s one reason we don’t include the 1994 Phillies here) except for two things: It came after a run of four straight playoff seasons — only the team’s second-longest streak of posteasons ever — and it ended with that memorable Dick Vermeil resignation citing “burnout.” Eagles fans would have to wait a few years, until the arrival of Buddy Ryan, to start feeling optimism again.
1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers • Record: 9-73
This one feels too easy. Nobody expected this Sixers team to do well — they’d already been in decline for a couple of seasons. But this group finally makes the list because they achieved immortality: Any discussion of Worst Teams Ever, nationally, includes this bunch and a couple of zero-win NFL teams. And remember: The 2013-14 edition of the Sixers was trying to be bad, and even then couldn’t come close to nine-win futility. That’s a singular achievement, folks.
The Worst: The 1972-73 Sixers. But only because we’re judging a single season of work. If we were to judge entire eras, well, the Phillies would’ve taken this cake several times over. Moral of the story at the end of this putrid Sixers season? It can always get worse — and often has.
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