This year’s 76ers are not about basketball. Rather, the 2014-15 76ers are all about potential and hope.
Last week, the Philadelphia 76ers lost by 53 points to the Dallas Mavericks, 123-70.
Somehow, looking at that final score actually seems more respectable than the game actually was. At the beginning of the second quarter, the Sixers were losing 40-10, so I guess fans can be happy that the team at least kept the Mavs from doubling their final score.
It was an embarrassing loss and Twitter handled it as such, making jokes that the team should be moved to Seattle.
Other teams are already upset at the Sixers for tanking consecutive seasons and collecting draft picks and young high-upside players, rather than trying to trot out a team that can compete on a nightly basis.
The media has accused the team of taking advantage of their fans, who pay for tickets and tune in, regardless of whether the product is good or bad.
To a degree, I understand. While perfectly legal, tanking could put a hypothetical black mark on the league’s reputation, but doing so also provides job security to management, which usually, only actual success can provide. But, this year’s 76ers are not about basketball.
Rather, the 2014-15 76ers are all about potential and hope. Remember the summer after you graduated high school, before you started college? Your whole future was in front of you. You were going to be a whole new, better version of yourself.
You were going to crush all of your classes and someday, waaaaaaaaay in the future, you’d graduate and get a good job. For some of us, that’s exactly how it worked out. For others (*sheepishly looks around,* *timidly raises hand*), not so much.
Well, the Sixers are the manifestation of that summer, when there was no pressure and when, for the first time, the world was yours for the conquering.
Every night, even the bad ones, there are flashes of this on the court when the Sixers play. Against the Mavs, it was last season’s Rookie of the Year, Michael Carter-Williams, slicing through the defense for a dunk in his first game of the season.
Other nights, it’s been KJ McDaniels, with alley-oops that probably left Moe Harkless with PTSD.
Other nights, it’s just the general existence of Nerlens Noel, the springy string bean with the flattop haircut and promise of being a destructive defensive force and a pick-and-roll offense monster. And, that’s not even getting into Tony Wroten or Joel Embiid, or Joel Embiid’s Twitter.
We put up with Nick Young during that horrible Andrew Bynum season, before Swaggy P became an Iggy Azalea-dating Internet phenomenon. That season was the worst, but it’s okay now, because Tony Wroten is the best.
Swaggy P is the perfect personification of this Sixers team: young, long, breathtakingly athletic and as unpolished as, like, a SUPER unpolished diamond. But, he’s still a diamond.
Coach Brett Brown’s scheme allows these young guys to run and gun as much as they want as long as they put in the effort on defense and in practice. And, since Tony puts in the effort on defense and in practice, he gets to run and gun.
Here’s a little fun fact about Tony: He LOVES to run and gun. He’s 6’6″ with AND1 mixtape hops and an AND1 mixtape sense of flair. He can be out of control, but when everything comes together, like that alley-oop to KJ, it’s electric.
There are only a few guys on the roster whom everyone agrees to be viable NBA players. Tony is one of them and he’s taking full advantage of the opportunity to showcase himself and play in a system that suits his skills. That’s part of the beauty of a team like this.
I understand that the Sixers are bad. But, just because the front office is tanking doesn’t mean the players and coaches are, too.
They play to win every night and even though actual wins don’t happen often, they can be worth watching. The team brings about inevitable highlights that come with stupidly long, stupidly athletic guys on the same court.
Most of the time, when a player or team is described as “unproven,” it’s meant to disparage them. Well, the Sixers and their fans are flipping the definition of the word on its head.
They are unproven in the best possible sense of the word; a blank canvas onto which we can project any scenario we’d like. We can be unabashed optimists.
Any true measure of success or failure is so far in the future that our imaginations are what limit the idea of what the team can be. Picture the Oklahoma City Thunder in a big market with owners who are willing to spend.
Could that be the model for the Sixers’ future? Could Joel Embiid be the dominant, Hakeem Olajuwon-type center the NBA needs in an era where Dwight Idiot Howard is the best inside presence in the league? IS TONY WROTEN THE NEXT MICHAEL JORDAN? Who knows?!
Look, losing sucks. In an 82-game season, losing as consistently as the Sixers are built to do gets old pretty quickly.
Hinkie and Brett Brown should be wary of the potential of a losing culture, as young, promising teams have been taken down by such a culture before.
But, in a time when the NBA is very clearly split between the haves and the have-nots and when mediocrity is a death sentence, the Sixers seem to be on the right path, and there are different kinds of losing.
The team’s players have every opportunity to improve themselves. I would rather watch that with fever dreams of championships flashing in my head than chase the six-seed and get demolished by the Cavs or Bulls.
Julius Erving and Allen Iverson aren’t walking that door to bring back the glory days, so the team must do what it takes to find the next great stars of Philadelphia basketball.
Laugh at the Sixers and their fans all you want. But, we have every reason to believe that soon, you won’t be.
Cue the music!
by Bobby Styles
This post originally appeared at Elite Daily. Reprinted with permission.
Boobie is a contributing writer based in Delaware County, PA. He went to Penn State and if you ever see him he’ll tell you all about. More #content from the Styles #brand: classisboring.tumblr.com @boobie_styles