Philadelphia-New York, is a great rivalry in any sport. Eagles-Giants in the NFL, which is probably the best one. Flyers-Rangers, in the NHL, Phillies-Mets in MLB and yes the 76ers-Knicks in the NBA. Which today is not nearly the rivalry it was twenty-five or thirty years ago. But it was a big deal in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. But now both franchises, especially in the 76ers case, haven’t been very good for a long time. The 76ers, have only been to the Conference Finals twice since winning their last NBA Finals in 1983. And the Knicks have struggled just to make the Eastern Conference Playoffs for the last ten years or so.
As far as this game, the 76ers were still one of the best teams in the NBA at this point. They lost in the Eastern Conference Finals in 1978 and got to the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 1979. Dr. J Julius Erving, certainly the best forward in basketball at this point and arguably the best all around player in the NBA as well at this point. Trying to lead the 76ers under head coach Billy Cunningham back to the NBA Finals. This was a bit of a homecoming for The Doctor who played for the Nets on Long Island. And the fact that he now played for the 76ers in this game was on Christmas Day, 1978 and they Sixers won big, made this game much more special.
What is also interesting about this game, is that Bob McAdoo, one of the top power forwards in the NBA in the 1970s was playing for the Knicks in this game. That were a pretty bad team in the late 70s. After leaving Buffalo in like 1976, he ends up playing for like three teams in four years. Here’s one of the best players in the NBA at this point getting shipped around from bad team to bad team in the late 70s. Before finally finding a home where he could finish his career with in Los Angeles with the Lakers in 1982. There was a lot of talent on both teams in this game, especially for the 76ers, but they were clearly the better team.