09/03/13 9:52 am EST
It has been almost two full years since the Philadelphia 76ers announced on November 11, 2011 that their oft-infamous mascot, Hip Hop, had “fallen in love, married, and will relocate to a rural part of Pennsylvania to start a family,”.
The Sixers have been mascot-less ever since.
The organization has been trucking along over the past two seasons. In 2011-2012, the team used it’s alleged momentum from one measly victory over a lethargic Miami Heat team that was up 3-0 in the first round of the 2011 playoffs as their identity and sales pitch to fans.
In 2012-2013, the team’s mascot was essentially this guy.
That colossal mistake — although, we all must admit it was a trade they had to make — is far from the happy-go-lucky beginnings of the sideshow the 76ers originally created in Big Shot back in the late 1970’s.
If you want an essence of Big Shot’s characteristics and nightly activities were, you can watch his antics during Dave Zinkoff’s pregame introduction of the loaded 1984 Sixers squad before Game 5 of the first round of the playoffs.
Unfortunately the boys in the home white short shorts dropped that series-decider to the New Jersey Nets, 101-98, despite Moses Malone’s 19 and 14 and the other five starters all-scoring in double digits.
During the hour I spent trying to find as much information about Big Shot as possible in every crevice of the internet—SPOILER: There isn’t much outside of the city’s cries for Adam Aron to bring him back — I came across a video that could be used to rival Big Shot’s talents with the dancing spectacle of the Philly Phanatic.
Bottom line, Big Shot was fun, zany and the right amount of ludicrous, the perfect mascot combination for an NBA franchise that’s nickname doesn’t present an obvious choice for the character.
But, Big Shot disappeared from the organization when the 76ers moved across the street from the Spectrum to the, then, First Union Center in 1996. The team then promptly introduced Philadunkia to Hip Hop. If you were living under a rock and don’t remember all that was the do-rag boasting, Allen Iverson signature shoe-wearing bunny rabbit that rocked a full Sixers uniform.
Pat Croce even tossed in a Hip Hop sidekick in 2001, a little person called Lil’G who wore No. ½ — birth name Glen Foster — who approached the Sixers enthusiastic owner at an autograph signing about joining the team’s timeout charades. G was discontinued several years before Iverson left town after he reportedly asked for more money.
Unfortunately for Sixers fans, after Iverson was traded to the Denver Nuggets in December 2006, Hip Hop was arguably the most entertaining part of attending a game at the, then, Wachovia Center. His dunk-off-a-trampoline routine with his band of Hare Raisers — that have been rebranded as the Sixers’ Flight Squad — was far more enamoring than the perennial mediocrity Billy King, Ed Stefanski and Tony DiLeo put onto the hardwood.
But Hip Hop wasn’t just an on-court spectacle; he paraded through the stands to celebrate birthdays and was arguably the face of the franchise during community events like hospital visits and children’s’ day camps. Hip Hop was so involved in the Sixers’ everyday activities. They even used him to help introduce Draft picks back in the early 2000’s. I loved the stupid rabbit so much as a kid, I dressed up as him on Halloween in fifth grade.
Then, when the Joshua Harris-led ownership group purchased the team in October 2011, the group’s first move wasn’t to relieve a stubborn and (in my opinion) ineffective Doug Collins of his head coaching duties, it was to get rid of Hip Hop who was apparently scaring kids and definitely didn’t mesh with the throwback color scheme of the team.
Then hilarity ensued, beginning with Evan Turner’s reaction.
I just hear they got rid of Hip-Hop. I guess the recession and lockout is real. Its a damn shame when a mascot isn’t safe smh lol
— evan turner (@thekidet) November 22, 2011
The Sixers hired the Jim Henson Creature Shop and Raymond Entertainment Group, whose founder, Dave Raymond, spent more than 15 years as the Phillie Phanatic to tag-team the development of a new team mascot. mThat “dream team” came up with this laughing stock. Pretty much everyone knows how that turned out; fans were outraged about the choices they were asked to vote on and the team announced that they would wait to decide on a new mascot until after the ’11-12 campaign. And they’re still waiting…
But the announcement wasn’t made before everyone got their shots in at the whole catastrophic effort to replace a “silly rabbit.”
The entire process was so ridiculous that when a recent college graduate named Jerry Rizzo made Twitter accounts for the three mascot choices, the team hired him for their PR Department. He’s still with the team and doing a solid job. NBA.com’s blog took a shot, ESPN.com’s Page 2 made an even bigger mockery of the contest than it already was.
Honestly, it was warranted. The 76ers organization had been a complete joke since Iverson’s final full, and arguably best season in Philly in 2005-2006. But the 76ers have taken Shawn Bradley sized footsteps to distance themselves from that vanilla era this summer.
Why have I dedicated almost 900 words to detail the pretty basic, yet oddly peculiar history of the Sixers’ mascot? Go back and read the descriptions of both Big Shot and Hip Hop (and Lil’G) and compare them to the team they cheered for and represented. The characteristics are extremely compatible.
Frankly, until the 76ers create, announce and introduce a new mascot to the Wells Fargo Center, the absence of a goofy and loveable character frolicking during timeouts will be the final remnant of the past seven unproductive and stale seasons in Philadelphia once Thad Young, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes likely leave the team before the 2014 NBA Draft. You can certainly argue that the organization should be worrying about completing this excruciatingly difficult rebuild first and foremost, but filling the mascot hole is also very important.
There are bound to be endless laughs shared about how terrible the Sixes are on the court this season, but Philly fans will be giggling with the team’s promising future in the back of their minds. We’ll be chuckling at Michael Carter-Williams airballs like a loving older brother who knows the younger has to fight a sometimes comical uphill struggle until he can reach his fullest potential.
Following this painful season, the Sixers are going to be one of the youngest and most entertaining, teams in the Association. A League Pass must see for hoop heads all across the country. For the team to truly cement that image and atmosphere into the team’s home arena, they must add a new mascot, who represents the team’s bright future. It will be the final, but not conclusive, step in leaping head first into a new era of that hopefully isn’t described as passionate, intense and proud.
It’s going to take people more creative than myself—my best idea is an unnamed Tiger in a Sixers uni based off of the Philadelphia Zoo logo and balloon—to make that happen.
But it simply must be done.