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March 31, 2020

Vote on round 2 of the all-time Sixers one-on-one bracket, featuring Wilt Chamberlain and Ben Simmons

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3_Ben_Simmons_sixers_76ersvsCeltics_KateFrese.jpg Kate Frese/for PhillyVoice

Sixers guard Ben Simmons.

With the early portion of our one-on-one Sixers bracket out of the way, it's time to start getting into the matchups that actually matter. We kick off round two back in the Wilt Chamberlain region, and there are at least a couple of matchups with some intrigue to kick off this round.

As a reminder, here's what Wilt Chamberlain region looks like after being updated to reflect first-round results.


(If you want a direct link to the photo with a better/closer view of the original bracket, you can check out the bracket here. Our full list of results is available here.)

These aren't the "best" 64 players, necessarily, but 64 players from an assortment of eras and categories that I initially was going to divide by playstyles (playmakers, scorers, finishers, and potpourri), before realizing you could put four or five of the greatest players in franchise history into the "scorer" category. I tried to account for some combination of impact, longevity, peak value, etc., with the first goal to split up the players I would consider to be the Sixers' version of Mt. Rushmore — Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Allen Iverson, and Charles Barkley. Critically, the players were not strictly seeded based on how good they would be in a one-on-one setting.

Here is a refresher on the rules, because I think we need one before opening polls back up Tuesday:

  1. Players are being judged strictly for who they were/what their game was when they were a member of the 76ers. So in the case of someone like Chris Webber, you get the guy with bad knees, not the athletic force. In the case of Markelle Fultz, you get the player whose jump shot went missing, rather than the resurgent version with the Orlando Magic. 
  2. Games are to 11, scored by ones and twos, and you must win by two. 
  3. Make-it, take-it is in effect.
  4. There are no rebounds on missed shots, which count as a turnover. All changes of possession require players to check the ball at the top of the arc.
  5. Players can take a maximum of four dribbles per possession, to avoid gratuitous post-ups or smaller guards dribbling circles around bigs.
  6. Calling fouls is the responsibility of the defense. You are encouraged to factor in player personality and willingness to bend the rules when considering the impact of this rule.

I must stress Rules No. 3, 4, and 5 above all others. This is not a game where big dudes can just pound people through the rim and live on the offensive glass, or a tournament where little guys can dribble circles around immobile bigs. Skill in isolation matters. You can vote however you want, but good basketball players tend to play a different style of one-on-one than the average person.

MORE: First-round results from our all-time Sixers one-on-one bracket

Other than that, use your best judgment. Good basketball players beat bad basketball players. Let's move on to today's matchups.

1. Wilt Chamberlain vs. 9. World B. Free

I say this as someone who respects Chamberlain as one of the all-time great basketball players and perhaps the best Philadelphia athlete who ever lived — I'm not so sure he would win this if we could actually play this matchup out. World B. Free was a walking bucket who cooked opposing teams even when he was in a reserve role in his early days, and some of his stylistic leanings would actually aid him in a matchup with a taller player. That high-arcing, rainbow jumpshot would be a massive weapon when trying to get up tough-angle shots over Chamberlain.

The other side of the ball is interesting too. My biggest concern for Chamberlain in this tournament is that the four-dribble max and elimination of rebounds takes away his natural advantages. He was an exceptional athlete and I have no concerns about him getting stops, but he didn't exactly have to initiate from the perimeter much during his prime. Getting in position to take advantage of his exceptional touch from 12 feet and in might be a bigger challenge than some would expect.

Of course, if you want to argue that he wouldn't need more than four dribbles to get himself into position for a bank shot or a casual layup over Free's head, there's not really a counter-argument to that. But with make-it, take-it rules in place, there is a scenario where Free gets on a heater and rides it to the finish line. This is my favorite matchup of the day. 

4. Elton Brand vs. 5. Billy Cunningham

Still a bit stunned at Elton Brand edging out Alec Burks in a one-on-one tournament, but the will of the people is what counts here. That sets us up for an intriguing matchup between two guys with productive NBA careers that would move on to basketball ops roles with the Sixers once their playing days were up.

Cunningham would be my pick here, as Brand did not arrive in Philadelphia until after suffering the Achilles injury that altered his career trajectory. The Clippers version of Elton Brand would have done some serious damage in this tournament, and Brand's defensive toughness will/would make him a tough out against pretty much anybody. But Cunningham was exceptional for Philadelphia, a terrific role player on their late 60's title team who would prove capable of playing a starring role as the core broke apart in the years to come.

Setting that aside, Brand also has a ways to go to best Cunningham in post-playing impact on the Sixers. I received some complaints about Cunningham being under-seeded in this tournament, and upon further reflection I would probably agree.

2. Ben Simmons vs. 7. Aaron McKie

There are some who will vote for the former Sixth Man of the Year here because of their reservations about Simmons' jumper in a one-on-one setting. Let me offer an important counterpoint: Simmons would absolutely put the clamps on McKie defensively. There is a decent chance McKie would never get closer to the basket than about 18 feet. That is a huge reason I am bullish on Simmons in this tournament in spite of his obvious weaknesses.

This is also not a situation where McKie could simply shoot himself out of that problem. In every season where we have data for such things, 90+ percent of McKie's made threes were assisted. Pull-up shooting from three was simply not the staple of the game it is now, and that is unfortunately very important for McKie in a matchup where getting to his spots inside the arc is going to be a huge challenge.

So what about the other side of the ball? Admittedly my memory is clouded by an injured McKie getting absolutely dusted by the likes of Rick Fox in the 2001 Finals series I just rewatched, but McKie either has to choose between sagging off and giving Simmons a runway to get speed going or playing up and risking a very easy blow-by. I would personally take Simmons in a comfortable victory.

3. Hal Greer vs. 11. Dario Saric

This is the first game where I'm curious of how the generational divide will tilt this one. Saric really has no business beating Greer, who is one of the great players in franchise history and one of the few Sixers legends who was with the franchise for the entirety of his decorated career.

As a sidebar, because I don't have a whole lot to offer in terms of analysis on this one, Greer's legacy is not talked about enough. When he retired following the 1972-73 season, he was the all-time leader in games played and top-10 in points scored, and as of this writing remains Philadelphia's franchise leader in points and minutes played. In 10 straight All-Star seasons that covered the entire 1960's, Greer was a model of consistency, and a worthy No. 2 next to the aforementioned Chamberlain.

With all due respect to The Homie, give me Greer.

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