Over the years, the illustrious Palestra has been used in an official and unofficial capacity as a professional playground for many teams and organizations, including the Philadelphia 76ers.
One instance was in 1967, when the Sixers played the East Division Finals at the Palestra and dethroned the Boston Celtics after their eight-year NBA title winning streak. This team is still considered one of the best in the history of the NBA for being able to defeat Boston and cap off their extended dominance of the NBA.
The East Division Finals started in Philadelphia, but with the Convention Hall occupied, game one was held at the Palestra. This game was the start of a run that the 76ers would never forget. They were up (1-0) in the series after finishing game one with a win by a score of 127-113.
After a bit of back-and-forth in the East Division Finals, the Sixers ended the Celtics' season by a score of 140-116 in game five. The Sixers, with the help of some great players on the team, were able to play almost perfect basketball. These players included Hal Greer, Wilt Chamberlain, Wali Jones, Chet Walker, and Billy Cunningham.
These 76ers greats, especially Chamberlain, had an intense rivalry with Boston, and they were finally able to defeat what was an amazing Celtics team.
"I really feel this is the greatest Celtics team, so in beating this team,” Chamberlain said after their win against the Celtics. “I think it helped to make up a little for the other losses we had over the years."
After the Sixers won game five, they moved on to the 1967 NBA Finals. In this series, the Sixers eventually defeated the San Francisco Warriors after six games and won the title later on that season.
In more recent years, the Sixers have used the Palestra in other ways, such as holding open practices as well as their Blue x White Scrimmages.
One of the first open practices held at the Palestra by the Sixers was in 1996 as a benefit for the Hero Scholarship Fund. Admission to the practice was free, but fans were asked to donate to the fund in memory of police officers who had recently been killed while on the job.
With an established relationship between the Sixers and Penn, more open practices were held along with the Blue x White Scrimmage.
The Blue x White Scrimmage annual event became anticipated as the first chance for fans to be introduced to that season’s Sixers team.
The most recent appearance of the Sixers at the Palestra was in the 2017 Blue x White Scrimmage.
Afterwards, the scrimmage was set to be held at the Palestra again, but it was canceled for the 2018-19 season due to what was deemed unplayable court conditions.
Since then, the Sixers and Penn have maintained a healthy relationship, and future uses of the Palestra with the 76ers are possible as conditions improve in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.