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The First Family Of NBA Champions Were From Philly

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Matt Guokas and Wilt Chamberlain were teammates on the 1966-67 NBA champion Philadelphia 76ers.

(Gloucestercitynews.net)(July 13, 2020)--Like father, like son.

Matt Guokas and his son Matt Jr. were the same in name and in-game..

And also in titles.

Matt Guokas won the NBA Finals with the 1946-47 Philadelphia Warriors during his first season in the league. Matt Guokas Jr. won the NBA Finals with the Philadelphia 76ers during his first season in the league.

Both were born in Philly. Both played their high school ball at Philadelphia’s Saint Joseph’s Prep. And father and son each spent their NCAA days toiling in the City of Brotherly Love with the Saint Joseph’s Hawks.

 

He Was A Warrior

At 6-foot-2, Matt Sr. was the tallest player on the Hawks when he played college ball from 1934-38, earning All-American status. 

Pro basketball of that era was more vagabond than organized. Players traveled a barnstorming circuit, usually earning about $50 per game. They bounced from team to team. Guokas, a forward, even played for a team in New York owned by Kate Smith and called the Celtics. Among his teammates was the actor Chuck Connors.

Unable to make a living on the hardwood, Guokas worked second jobs as a milkman and a ball bearing inspector to make ends meet. But that all changed in 1946 when coach Eddie Gottlieb signed him to play for the Warriors of the Basketball Association of America. The league would be renamed the NBA in 1949 after a merger with the National Basketball League.

Guokas made $7,000 that first season with the Warriors, forerunners to today’s Golden State Warriors. He was 31 at the time and worked mostly off the bench, averaging 1.7 points. His season-high was nine points. Still, Guokas was part of history when the Warriors stunned the top-seeded Chicago Stags 4-1 in the best-of-seven final series. 

The End Arrived Suddenly

Returning from an outing in Sicklerville, N.J. during the summer of 1947 with his brother Al and three other friends, they were involved in a car accident. Al and Matt were thrown from the vehicle. 

Al narrowly missed slamming into a telephone pole as he sailed through the air. Matt wasn’t as fortunate. He was severely injured after being wrapped around that pole. As a result, his left leg was amputated above the knee.

His on-court playing days were done. 

The Second Coming

Matt Jr. was also an All-American at Saint Joseph’s, setting school records for assists and steals. The 76ers made Guokas their first draft pick in 1966, the ninth overall selection. 

The Sixers came to be in 1963 when the Syracuse Nationals relocated to Philly. One year earlier, the Warriors had departed Philadelphia for San Francisco. Oddly enough, the Philadelphia Warriors won their second league title in 1955-56 by vanquishing the Nationals in a five-game NBA Finals series.

When the younger Guokas arrived to play for his hometown team, he was suiting up for an NBA powerhouse. The Sixers went 68–13 in 1966-67, an NBA single-season record for wins and winning percentage. 

Led by the incomparable Wilt Chamberlain, the 76ers were a star-studded group that also featured Chet Walker, Hal Greer, and Billy Cunningham. Like his dad, rookie Guokas, a shooting guard/small forward, came off the bench. He played in 69 games and averaged 3.0 points per game. 

In the NBA Finals, it was yet an odd experience for Philadelphians. Philly’s new team would clash with Philly’s old team, the Warriors. The 76ers won the best-of-seven series 4-2. 

In 1980 as part of the NBA’s 35th-anniversary celebrations, the 1966-67 76ers were voted the best individual team in league history.

“The best team ever,” Chamberlain once told NBA.com. “The best team I ever saw was the 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers.”

Guokas and his dad were the first father-son duo to earn NBA championships as players. Their unique feat has since been repeated by Rick and Brent Barry, Bill and Luke Walton, and Mychal and Klay Thompson.

When Coaching Called

Guokas Jr. played with the Sixers until 1970. After his playing days ended, he turned to coach. He was an assistant coach to Cunningham with the 1982-83 NBA title-winning Sixers and later served as the club’s head coach from 1985-88. 

Guokas was also the first coach in the history of the Orlando Magic and Shaquille O’Neal’s first NBA head coach. 

Matt Sr. also turned to coach. Although it wasn’t at the game’s highest level, it was just as noble a pursuit. If a player came through Philadelphia’s youth basketball system, they likely were taught at a clinic by Guokas. 

At The Mic

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Matt Guokas partnered with many broadcasting legends, including Dick Enberg. Photo by: @UAB_MBB (Twitter.com).

A third profession also proved to be the calling of both Guokas father and son - broadcasting.

Matt Guokas Sr. worked in both radio and television. For 32 years, he was the public address voice at home games for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. 

Matt Guokas Jr. did analyst and color commentator work on Magic games. He also handled Cleveland Cavaliers broadcasts for several years. 

As well, he was a color commentator on network telecasts for the NBA on NBC in the 1990s. Guokas paired with play-by-play legend Marv Albert to call the March 19, 1995 game between the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers in which Bulls guard Michael Jordan ended his retirement and returned to the NBA.

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