Episode #39: A Humble Philadelphia Basketball Legend: Coach Billy Cunningham
So excited to share my conversation with my friend Billy Cunningham, an incredibly humble Philadelphia legend! Billy was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY alongside his three siblings.
Early in life, Billy realized he had a love and passion for the game of basketball. He was fortunate enough to go to the University of North Carolina and to this day, he is recognized as one of the best players in the school’s history. After graduating from college in 1965, he played professionally for nine years, playing for both the Philadelphia 76ers and the Carolina Cougars. He was on the team that won the 76ers NBA Championship in 1967 with the famous Wilt Chamberlin, who is considered one of the greatest players of all time.
His career came to an end in 1976 and after a short stint in broadcasting for CBS, he was hired as the head coach of the 76ers from 1977 to 1985. In 1983, he led the team to win the NBA Championship, which was the last team ever in Philadelphia history to win an NBA title. Billy talks a lot about this team and the humble and incredible team members such as Bobby Jones, Maurice Cheeks, Andrew Toney, Moses Malone, and Julius Erving—all considered some of the best players in NBA history.
In 1986, Billy was inducted into NBA Hall of Fame and in 1996 he was named one of the 50 greatest players in NBA history. His jersey number 32 is retired, however, he allowed it to be worn by the legendary Charles Barkley, who he also coached.
After retiring from coaching in 1985, he went on to be one of the co-founders of the Miami Heat NBA team, which was a remarkable entrepreneurial journey. After building that team into a true success, he sold his share in 1994 for a very profitable number. Over the past 20+ years, Billy has continued on with tremendous success in business, becoming a very keen investor in different businesses.
I personally think that one of his greatest successes has been his 53 yearlong marriage to his awesome wife and my good friend Sondra Cunningham. Together they have two beautiful daughters Stephanie and Heather and four grandchildren!
Hope you enjoy the interview!