The 76ers lost their first two Finals meetings with the Lakers in 1980 and 1982. While Julius Erving played superbly in both series, their frontcourt of Darryl Dawkins, Caldwell Jones and Bobby Jones couldn't neutralize Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. So in the off-season, the 76ers acquired Moses Malone from the Houston Rockets in an effort to solve Kareem, in addition to providing some offense and rebounding to the team. They parted ways with Caldwell Jones, Dawkins, and Lionel Hollins before the season, while giving greater responsibility to high-scoring guard Andrew Toney and backup playmaker Clint Richardson, and adding forwards Clemon Johnson and rookie Marc Iavaroni.
Malone's acquisition paid dividends, as the 76ers won 65 games in the 1982–83 NBA season. Prior to the playoffs, Malone predicted the team would win four games in each of the three rounds, ending it with the statement Fo, Fo, Fo. The 76ers would steamroll through the playoffs, sweeping the New York Knicks 4–0 in the conference semifinals, before overcoming the Milwaukee Bucks in five games of the conference finals. The 76ers were heading into the Finals as confident as ever.
The Lakers earned the top pick of the 1982 NBA draft, becoming the only defending champion to earn the top overall pick in the same season. This was because Cleveland Cavaliers owner Ted Stepien traded their first round pick and Butch Lee to the Lakers for Don Ford and draft pick Chad Kinch three years earlier. Because the Cavaliers earned the worst record at 15–67, they would have earned the top overall pick via a coin toss with the 17–65 San Diego Clippers. Instead, the Lakers would earn the top pick and ultimately selected future Hall of Famer James Worthy first overall.
The Lakers won 58 games the next season. Worthy was a strong contender for Rookie of the Year when he broke his leg late in the season, therefore missing the rest of the season and the playoffs. Despite Worthy's absence, Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar were still in their prime, and led the Lakers back to the Finals by beating the Portland Trail Blazers 4–1 and the San Antonio Spurs 4–2 in the second and third playoff rounds, respectively.
The Philadelphia 76ers won both games in the regular season series:
The final piece of the Philadelphia 76ers' championship puzzle was completed before the 1982–83 season when they acquired center Moses Malone from the Houston Rockets. They went on to capture their historic second NBA championship as they won 65 games, and stormed through the playoffs, first sweeping the New York Knicks, and then beating the Milwaukee Bucks in five games. They finally finished it off with a four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Lakers, who had defeated them the season before.
Said head coach Billy Cunningham, "The difference from last year was Moses." Malone was named MVP of the 1983 Finals, as well as league MVP for the third time in his career. The 76ers completed one of the most dominating playoff runs in league history with a 12–1 mark after league and NBA Finals MVP Moses promised "Fo', fo', fo" (as in "four, four, four"—four wins to win round 1, four wins to win round 2, etc.), but it actually wound up as "Fo', fi', fo." (four, five, four). The 76ers were also led by Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney, and Bobby Jones.
With 59 seconds to go in Game 4, it was Erving who made a three-point play to hold the lead for good, crushing the Lakers in a four-game sweep and ending the last NBA Finals to end before June.Philadelphia 76ers
Los Angeles Lakers
The 1983 NBA Finals was being broadcast by CBS. Dick Stockton and Bill Russell were the commentators and Brent Musburger was the host, with Kevin Loughery as a pre-game, halftime and post-game analyst. It also introduced a new theme music for the CBS Sports coverage of the NBA, used an introduction of the NBA arenas (similar to the Boston Garden) until the 1989 Playoffs and later revived the second theme beginning in the 1989 Finals.
Following the 1983 NBA Finals, a video documentary called "That Championship Feeling" recaps the NBA Playoff action that year. Dick Stockton, who called the Finals for CBS with Bill Russell, narrated the video, and Irene Cara's 1983 hit single "Flashdance... What a Feeling" is the official theme song for the video documentary. For the first time, NBA Entertainment used videotape instead of film for all the on-court and off-court footage. "I'm So Excited" by The Pointer Sisters was also used as the opening music for the documentary, while Grover Washington, Jr.'s "Let It Flow" was used during the Julius Erving segment and as the closing music.
The Sixers would finish the 1983–84 season with 52 wins; however, they fell to the young New Jersey Nets in five games of the first round, in which the road team won every game. The Sixers would not make it back to the finals again until 2001, also against the Lakers, but this time they lost in five games to the then-defending NBA champions.
The Lakers would return to the Finals again in 1984, but were defeated for the second straight year, this time by their arch-rivals, the Boston Celtics in seven games. They would, however, defeat the Celtics in 1985 in six games, and win two more titles in 1987 and 1988.
The 1983 Finals was the last to end within the month of May. All Finals series thereafter would end within the month of June.
This was the only championship not to be won by either the Celtics or Lakers between 1980 and 1988.
This also was the only NBA Finals to feature 5 NBA Most Valuable Players total for the two teams (Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Bob McAdoo, Moses Malone & Julius Erving).
Like the 1966–67 team, the 1982–83 76ers were named as one of the top 10 teams in NBA history during the league's 50th anniversary season of 1996–97. Billy Cunningham played on the former and coached on the latter.
The 76ers championship was the last for the city of Philadelphia until the Phillies won the 2008 World Series. At the time, no other city with all four professional sports teams had a championship drought last as long as that from 1983 to 2008 (25 Years). Some suggested that this was the Curse of Billy Penn. When the Flyers played for the 2010 Stanley Cup, The Ottawa Citizen reported that the main reason for that lengthy championship drought was because the only years the city's teams played for championships during that time were years presidents were inaugurated. The city's teams had lost championships during such years, beginning with the 76ers themselves in 1977. The exceptions were the Phillies in 1983 and the Flyers in 1987.
The song "Fo Fi Fo" by Pieces of a Dream was released a few months after the series ended and hit #13 on the R&B charts.