That night back in 1986, 1983 World Champions Philadelphia 76ers came to Richfield Coliseum without their leading star – Julius ‘Dr.J.’ Erving, who was enjoying the last of his 11 NBA seasons.
It was a just perfect momentum for the young and rebellious 6’6′ All-Star forward Charles Barkley to lead the charge of, what he will later call, ‘just a mediocre 76ers squad’. ‘The Round Mound of Rebound’ felt just terrible after his friend and mentor, who introduced him to the NBA, Moses Malone, was dealt with the Bullets, on June 16th, 1986.
That night’s opponents, Cleveland Cavaliers, on the other hand, received a huge preseason boost in the form of the extra-talented 1986 draft class. The rejuvenated Cavs backcourt featured Mark Price and Ron Harper, and the frontcourt was stacked with by fellow rookies – 7’0” Brad Daugherty and 6’11” John ‘Hot Rod’ Williams.
But, in ‘Chucksters own dictionary it spelled ‘No problem at all’…
He started easy, just roaming around on offense as usual. But before you know it he was a man on a mission – ‘Sir Charles’ led the 76ers offensive onslaught scoring at will against any defender! Knowing no fear of taller players, he would have his way, either going around or taking shots over much taller Cavaliers defenders which included Phil Hubbard, Brad Daugherty John ‘Hot Rod’ Williams, and Mark West.
RELATED VIDEO LINK Charles Barkley 1st Career 40+ Pts Game 1986.12.13 at Cavaliers
But Barkley would not just score – he would do anything that his team needed to win, what will become his NBA trademark in the upcoming decade.
He would grab an offensive board and dish it off to the cutting ex-Cavalier Roy Hinson for a thunder dunk. A couple of possessions later, he would storm back on defense to prevent potential Ron Harper’s breakaway slam. He would read double-team situations to perfection and dish it off to the open guards to score.
His definite highlights in this one came in the clutch. First, on the delight of spectators in the Richfield Coliseum, he made a reverse breakaway jam on David Wingate’s assist, which forced Cavs to call the time-out. Midway through the fourth quarter, he calmly sank a three-pointer off the glass to tie his previous career-high of 36 points.
Cavs eventually edged Philly by 123-120 led by the rookie guards Mark Price and Ron Harper who combined for a total of 61 points! But, Barkley performed admirably – he finished the game with 41 points, 12 boards, 6 dimes, 4 steals, and 2 rejections while hitting 18-30 shots from the floor and 2-4 behind the three-point arc.
In 1986-87 season Barkley topped 30-point margin 15 times, increasing his average on 23.0 PPG while leading the league in rebounding (14.6 RPG) and two-point field goal percentage (60.6%).
Murray A. a.k.a. Marjan Crnogaj is a BN contributor and the author of the book ‘Drazen – The Years of the Dragon’ which can be found here.