It’s a fitting charge for an organization who has struggled with its identity over the past 25 years. Sure there have been some fine moments over that time period. Charles Barkley’s rise to stardom, Allen Iverson’s arrival, Iverson’s 2000-01 MVP season where the unlikeliest of Sixers team made a run to the NBA finals, to Andre Iguodala’s arrival. But it wasn’t until October 18th, 2011 that the Sixers truly made their transition back to what it is the six letters read on their jerseys.
You see, this day was the first day of a new era in Sixers basketball. It was the first press conference for the teams new owners group (Joshua Harris, Adam Aron, David Blitzer, Jason Levien, Art Wrubel, Erick Thohir, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Michael G. Rubin) and it was being held at the “Cathedral of Basketball”, The Palestra. The two names out of this group that are truly responsible for all that’s happened over this ten months are Harris and Aron. Yesterday, coach Doug Collins had plenty of nice things to say about the two owners who have given this organization new life once again.
“He’s(Adam’s) reaching out to our fans. He’s got that twitter going. He’s selling more tickets. He’s finding ways to get even more fans to games by creating a great team and Josh, those two guys what they’ve meant to me has just been how special it is to be a part of this and really watch it grow.” said coach Collins. “Just seeing Josh’s face light up there today was a great thing because I remember Josh’s press conference up at the Palestra and how shy he was. You know I don’t think you realize how shy he was and kind of got up there and tried to feel it all out. “
“When he was standing up there today and you could feel how proud he was. He was saying you know ‘we are the Sixers’ and I was telling Adam the first time I met him the same thing, ‘we are the Sixers’. This is a proud franchise. We don’t need to bow our head down or hang our heads to anybody. We’re the Sixers.”
The Sixers they are once again. Along with the tutelage of coach Collins, the new owners have gotten the city of Philadelphia excited to be a Sixers fan once again. Not only that, but like Collins said you no longer have to bow your head in shame over the thoughtless decisions by owners and managers alike that have occurred over the past 25 years like the drafting of Shawn Bradley and Larry Hughes, to the signing of Glenn Robinson or Chris Webber. Or the trading of Charles Barkley. From top to bottom, the Sixers organization has taken all the right measures in just one year to make this franchise relevant once again.
In this short ten month span, the Sixers owners have gotten rid of hip-hop, created new commercials of Sixers stars both new and old, created a brand new introductory video projection (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IyQU3HPtUg8), helped create the Revolutionary Row for diehard Sixers fans near the visiting teams bench, lowered ticket prices, helped fund community service projects throughout the city, shed the salaries of Andre Iguodala, Elton Brand, and Lou Williams, and brought in a player that automatically makes the Sixers organization a Eastern Conference contender again in center Andrew Bynum.
Twenty-five years ago, Julius “The Doctor” Erving played his final game with the Sixers and it’s taken 25 years for the legacy he built to return to Philadelphia. Yesterday the Sixers owners held a public press conference to introduce Bynum and guard Jason Richardson at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia to a crowd of hundreds who had been waiting hours to catch a glimpse of the big man.
One of the biggest questions amid all the excitement was now that Bynum had made it to Philadelphia, if he were thinking of extending his stay for the long-term. A native of Plainsboro, New Jersey, Bynum had grown up on the East Coast his entire life before moving to Los Angeles to play for the Lakers. Shortly into yesterdays press conference the crowd heard what they wanted to hear from Bynum.
“To be honest, my first experience here has been so great, I’m really leaning towards making this my home,” Bynum said. “I’m not the kind of guy who wants to be all around, have a lot of teams under my belt. I don’t know, man. That’s really the answer man, I’m really leaning towards staying.”
A die-hard Sixers fan who had witnessed the spectacle, Chris Roithmayr, was blown away by Bynum’s statement and could feel the energy that rumbled throughout the Constitution Center.
“It was pretty crazy once he said he wanted to stay long-term. The place just erupted.” said Chris. “It’s the most excited I’ve seen Sixers fans in a long time. It was pretty cool to see.”
The Sixers as a franchise are about to enter their 50th season. Other than arguably Charles Barkley, it’s taken 25 of those years for the Sixers to actually have a star to build around that can lead the Sixers to the promise land. Allen Iverson as great as he was, was never really considered this type of player. They have that in Andrew Bynum. Bynum has all the physical tools to dominate a basketball game, something the Sixers haven’t had on their roster since Moses Malone.
“(In L.A.) I was compared to Kareem and Shaq. I like that I am that good of a player to be compared to them,” Bynum said. “I’m going to work hard to try to be the best. I’m looking forward to the pressure. Pressure makes diamonds.”
Bynum averaged 19 points and 11 rebounds last year for the Lakers while getting his first all-star nod. Being the first option for the Sixers next season expect even more production from the big man. Collins is very excited at the task of being able to get the most out of his newly acquired big man.
“Really, I haven’t been anywhere I’ve had that guy that you throw the ball down into the post and play through him . . . a guy who is going to give you possibly 20 and 10 every night . . . block shots . . . rebound,” Collins said. “So this is a whole different thing for me. It’s exciting.”
The only question surrounding Bynum are his surgically repaired knees. The big man is set to have injections of plasma-rich platelets which should stimulate healing in arthritis-affected areas in both of his knees. Former teammate of Bynum’s, Kobe Bryant, who received the injections last summer claims that the therapy helped dramatically improve his own knees and injured left ankle.
Sixers president Rod Thorn said Bynum and his surgically repaired knees checked out fine after a lengthy physical on Tuesday.
”You’ve got to take calculated risks sometimes,” Thorn said. ”Players of his level don’t come on the market every day.”
In today’s NBA, more often than not the teams who take risks end up on top. Look at the Celtics and Heat franchises. If the big 3 hadn’t formed in Boston, or Wade wasn’t able to convince Shaq to come in 2006 or Bosh and LeBron to come in 2011 then both franchises would probably still be stuck in mediocrity. In the 2012 off-season, the Sixers and Brooklyn Nets were the franchises to stir things up and come May NBA fan’s will see how it all pans out. I see a bright future for both of them.
Coach Doug Collins already stated his mission previously. He wants the Sixers to go beyond the playoff success they had in 2012 (getting past the first round for the first time since 2004). Collins want’s the NBA’s biggest prize.
“It’s my fourth stop; it’s my last stop,” Collins said. “And when I leave here I want this to be a championship city.”
He finally has all the tools he needs to do so, he finally has the fan base he needs surrounding him, and he finally has the owners who will give him everything he needs to reach that goal.
The question now is what the next 25 years will bring to this organization? With the way things have been going in just 10 months, I’d bet on at least a couple parade’s down Broad Street once again.