I've been a Philadelphia 76ers fan ever since I was in diapers. I've followed the team since I picked up the game of basketball at a young age.
I was 4 years old when Allen Iverson led an abysmal Sixers squad to the 2001 NBA Finals against the dominant Los Angeles Lakers. Philly ended up losing that series 4-1, but I'll never forget witnessing Iverson's famous step-over on the Lakers' Ty Lue, cheering and whooping from my bedside. I don't remember much from that age, but I'll always remember that.
Fast forward 18 years and the Sixers are finally a team to be reckoned with. More importantly, they are no longer a laughingstock of a franchise, as they had been for so many long, grueling decades. The team arguably boasts 3 of the top 15 players in the NBA, in superstars Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Jimmy Butler. They have 39 wins and 22 losses thus far, the 4th best record in the East and 6th best in the league. There are heavy Eastern Conference Finals and NBA Finals expectations for the club, something that Philly fans haven't heard for quite some time.
Along with the Eagles, the Sixers are the talk of the town. Arenas are no longer empty, with tickets at $5 a pop. Billboards are lined with advertisements to witness the championship-caliber team live. It's been a long haul and many seasons filled with let-downs and headaches, but true Sixers basketball is back.
But, to acknowledge where we are now, we must acknowledge where we came from. Before the 2017-18 season, the Sixers made the playoffs 4 times in 12 years. They hadn't made the playoffs since the 2011-12 season, losing in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. In the 2015-16 season, the Sixers were 10-72, the second-worst record in franchise history. The team hadn't had a groundbreaking player on the roster since Iverson, now a Hall of Famer. There was nothing to lose, as the only way to go from here was up.
Then, Sam Hinkie took over the reins as General Manager and President of Basketball Operations in 2013. For the next 3 seasons, Hinkie decided to tank (or have the Sixers be non-competitive to compile high draft picks) and created mass hysteria in the league by doing so. He was shamed and ridiculed by NBA executives leaguewide for making such a monumental waste and sacrifice of multiple seasons.
Hinkie's method became known as "The Process", evolving into the popular mantra we know now as "Trust the Process". Long story short, Hinkie's purposeful indifference and flurry of draft-day trades resulted in acquiring the likes of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Dario Saric, Robert Covington, Markelle Fultz, and other well-known names. Hinkie stepped down at the end of the 2016 season. After a few recent major moves, the Sixers boast one of the league's best starting 5 lineups: Embiid, Simmons, Butler, JJ Redick, and Tobias Harris. The momentum of success is only trending upwards. We really only have one person to thank here--you can guess who. We still chant his name.
It's been a long time coming that the Sixers are making Philly a proud basketball city again. From a diehard basketball fan, words can't describe my joy of coming home at the end of a long day and watching my favorite team do well. Regardless of the high expectations, the Sixers may not fulfill them this year. On a beaming note, the team is full of young stars and the potential looks fantastic for years to come.
As amazing as the Super Bowl win was, Philly is never satisfied with just one championship. Keep a watchful eye on the Sixers--we'll be celebrating on Broad Street again soon enough.