The City of Brotherly Love’s own Philadelphia University played host to the third annual Mary Kline Classic, yesterday. The MKC, which was founded, and is still run, by Alex Kline of TheRecruitScoop.com in honor of his later mother, Mary, features some of the top high school basketball prospects in the country while raising thousands of proceeds to National Brain Tumor Society and Brain Tumor Research at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
Of the 40 players that competed this year, 20 hailed from within 50 miles of Philly. But, the idea that Philadelphia is a Mecca for high school basketball is not a novel concept. National media and legend has praised the level of amateur ball Philadunkia has had to offer for generations.
College basketball also has it’s own mystique intertwined within the city’s history. The Palestra and Big 5 hoops are known commodities far outside of the tri-state area. And, even though there technically is no Big 5 tournament, winning the annual Big 5 series is an honor each college program in the City strives to reach because in Philly, reason to trash talk is a welcome consolation for hardware.
So with all of this in mind, why can’t Philadelphia become an elite destination for pro basketball? Why can’t Philadelphia, a city rich in basketball history at all levels, be considered a location that NBA players desire to hoop in?
Unfortunately, even if Sam Hinkie miraculously turns the Sixers into a competitive team in the next few years, they will most likely still be the “fourth team” in this city. The Eagles will always be number one in most Philadelphia fans’ hearts. The Phillies, the most recent world champions, are still trying to make fans cling to the blessed memories of 2008. The Flyers have a fan base that bleeds orange and black and that team will always be attractive to people in Philadelphia because of their blue-collar spirit. The 76ers? Right now, they don’t really have a niche. They don’t have an identity.
The Sixers happen to play in one of the best basketball cities in the entire world. However, the people of Philly won’t be impressed by whatever brand of professional basketball resides in the Wells Fargo Center until fans can identify with the team’s product. Fans need to be able to say, “The Sixers are my team because ________.”
This off-season is all about fixing that problem for managing owner Joshua Harris, new General Manger Sam Hinkie and whoever else is still left/brought in before the opening tip off this fall. But, regardless of who this organization brings in on the court and in the front office, they need to focus on adding highly skilled players that will help this team win and build an identity for this franchise. A winning NBA team with a high profile identity and a loyal fan base will attract great NBA players.
Until then, no matter what moves Harris and Hinkie make, Philadunkia nation will struggle to become a pro basketball town again.
No pressure fellas.
Jake Fischer is a Scribe for Philadunkia. Follow him on Twitter @JakeLFischer.
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