Fitz Eugene Dixon Jr., the owner of the Philadelphia 76ers of the National Basketball Association, reportedly is worth somewhere between $150 and $200 million, give or take a few gold coins.
Talent-wise, his pro basketball team may be worth even more. In fact, two players that Coach Billy Cunningham chooses to bring in off the bench (Bobby Jones and Steve Mix) have played in three NBA all-star games between them.
The problem is that although the 76ers always perform well during the regular season (152 wins in the past three years), they have a habit of failing to measure up to expectations in the playoffs.
In the past three years Philadelphia has been dismissed from the playoffs by the San Antonio Spurs, the Washington Bullets, and the Portland Trail Blazers.However, against the Trail Blazers they did manage to delay their elimination until the finals.
But people who have grown fond of saying and writing that the 76ers are the best schoolyard basketball team money can buy may find it advisable to pursue another line this season. This is a team that seems to have added maturity, defense, and more togetherness to an offense that already was one of the best in the league.
"Philadelphia is so strong physically that it's going to be almost impossible for anyone to beat them twice in a row in the playoffs," said Coach Bill fitch of the Boston Celtics. "In fact, there isn't another team in basketball that can bring two reserve forwards the quality of Jones and Mix in off the bench." The starters they spell are Julius Erving and 7 ft. 1 in. Caldwell Jones.
Asked if this could be the best equipped 76ers team he has ever taken to the playoffs (although it's not late enough in the season for this to be a mathematical fact), Cunningham replied:
"Well, I think we probably know better what we have to do to win than we have other years. I also think we're more together as a team than we've been in the past. One feeling I've had about former playoffs is that we've always turned the ball over too many times. But if we eliminate that, and continue to play well on defense, it will take an awfully good team to beat us."
Because there are so many strong and unusual personalities on the 76ers, Cunningham's job has never been considered easy.
For example, although Philadelphia's Darryl Dawkins isn't the best center in pro basketball, he may eventually be the one most remembered for his quotes, spectacular slam dunks, and the flair with which he shatters backboards.
Dawkins (under an NBA hardship rule) was drafted right out of high school by the 76ers in 1975, an 18-year-old who stood just under seven feet, had a 36-inch waist and 33-inch thighs.
Darryl may have been the only teen-age pro basketball player who ever took on-the-job training in a Fleetwood Cadillac. He may now own as much jewelry, especially gold neck chains, as Zsa Zsa Gabor.
Perhaps Dawkins most famous quote deals with the word nothing. "Nothing means nothing," he once told reporters. "But it really isn't nothing, but nothing is something that isn't."
Then there is Erving, alias Dr. J, who once owned the American Basketball Association offensively, and is good for 20 points a game even on his mediocre nights.
For Erving, walking on air is no problem at all. The Doctor's leaping ability stops just short of the rafters and he may be the best reason ever advanced for the invention of instant replay.
Often some of the things Erving does can't be believed the first time they are seen, such as his acting in the feature-length movie "The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh."
If the Philadelphia 76ers could be set to music, they would be in demand in every disco house in the country. But like Franz Schubert, their playoff melody so far has been left largely unfinished!