As the Philadelphia 76ers meet the Boston Celtics in the second round of the 2018 NBA playoffs, history is crawling out of the parquet floor. From rivals Wilt Chamberlain-Bill Russell (who often dined together after games) to Larry Bird-Julius Erving (who did not), the history of the Celtics-Sixers rivalry is as rich as any in the NBA — even that of the Celtics-Lakers. Indeed the Celtics-Sixers rivalry is so big it includes the Lakers, because of that time Celtics fans — in a show of extraordinary good sportsmanship — chanted “Beat L.A., beat L.A.” when they realized late in Game 7 of the 1982 conference finals that Philadelphia, not the Celtics, would head to the NBA Finals against the Lakers.
But for true Sixers-Celtics fans, no story of the rivalry would be complete without remembering 76ers shooting guard Andrew Toney, a sure Hall of Fame candidate waylaid after bone spurs were discovered in his painful feet. Toney was so good against Boston he earned the nickname “The Boston Strangler” — earned it enough to have it printed on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Ironically, Toney was so good that he helped Boston win championships: it was because of their inability to stop Toney that the Celtics brought in defensive specialist Dennis Johnson, who was instrumental in Boston’s NBA titles in 1984 and 1986. Wanna know how good Andrew Toney was? Especially against Boston? Don’t take our word for it. Here’s what Larry Bird thought:
In his basketball memoir, Larry Legend picked the two greatest players of his era at each position. For shooting guards he named Toney and a certain Michael Jeffrey Jordan, noting (astoundingly) that as far as scoring ability he couldn’t separate the two. Bird later said, “Toney was a killer. The absolute best I’ve ever seen at shooting the ball at crucial times.”
If Bird’s word doesn’t do it, how about Charles Barkley? Barkley was a rookie on the reigning NBA Champion 76ers featuring the legendary Doctor J, Moses Malone and newly minted Hall of Famer Maurice Cheeks. What were Barkley’s impressions? Charles Barkley said later: “the only one I was in awe of was Andrew.”