For those new to the program, I am a life-long Philadelphian. As such, I’ve lived and died every season of our city’s major sports teams for the 26+ years I’ve been alive for. Well that holds true for three of the teams. After writing last night’s Hall of Fame post, I turned on the Sixers/Raptors game in the middle of the second quarter. For those you follow our Instagram, you’ve seen my constant ‘Grams at “The Center” for Sixers games (shoutout to Third and Girl for being so kind). 2016 was a reawakening for my fandom towards the Sixers. Up until last spring, the most I could tell you about the Sixers was whether or not they played last night. I couldn’t name anyone on the roster aside from Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, the at-the-time injured Joel Embiid, and that European guy who won’t come to the US (Dario Saric). I’d pay attention to the draft and would look at offseason deals the team would make, but I wouldn’t find myself as immersed as I normally am for the Phillies, Flyers, and Eagles. Last spring, Emily (the authority at Third and Girl) decided to purchase the season tickets from which you’ve seen all these pictures. Because of that, the Sixers hooked her and subsequently, me up with free tickets to three games; this was where the spark was reignited. In case you were living at the Earth’s core, Spring 2016 was the apex of the Sixers’ tanking. In other words, no one came to these games and if I had to guess, the Wells Fargo Center was about 40% full in these late-March home games.
In one game, I think it was against the Rockets, the Sixers entered the fourth quarter getting absolutely crushed by at 25 points. Something clicked on the Sixers bench that quarter, their shots started falling, the other four players on the court started supporting Nerlens on defense, and the Sixers cut the lead to 10 points. I can’t remember who made the shot, but when this 25-point deficit became only 10 points, the Wells Fargo Center exploded. What I do remember from that game is turning to Emily on the subway ride home and saying to her: “Can you imagine how loud that place will get once the team actually becomes good!?” I said that thinking “The Process” would take a few more years. Enter Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, and of course, Joel Embiid.
Once this season started, I was hooked on watching this Sixers team. Even without Simmons, I knew this was the time to become full immersed in the squad. Did I think it’d go this well? Did I think Embiid would take the nation by storm? Did I even think there would be rumors that the Sixers actually want to play Ben Simmons? Did I come even close to thinking that the Sixers would be one of the hottest teams in NBA? The answer to all of those questions, especially that last one, was a big fat NO. But here we are. I was even Dario Saric for Halloween (no photographic evidence, unfortunately).
Embiid has captured the city of Philadelphia’s attention more than any other athlete has been able to since Allen Iverson. The Sixers are one of the Joel’s meteoric rise to stardom shouldn’t have been entirely unexpected given his talent at Kansas but the fact that even Bill Simmons, who has never even seen Embiid in person, LOVES Embiid tells you something. The Sixers still have a long way to go before a third title banner rises in “The Center” but the future is bright, my friends.