I was coming back from my brother’s baseball game on a nice spring day in 2012. I had just gotten into watching basketball during this 66 game, lockout shortened season, and could not be more excited to watch the Sixers that night. This was not just any Sixers game, this was game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals against the Boston Celtics.
I couldn’t stand the Celtics, and I still can’t today. I hated Kevin Garnett with every fiber of my being. I hated watching him bang his head into the stanchion before every game. Then he would go out there and play with a cockiness, which he backed up, and just tear your heart out as an opposing fan. I badly wanted to see my 8 seeded 76ers pull out another upset win and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. But it did not play out that way for me. The Sixers would go out and only score 75 points in a loss which sealed the fate on any hope that I had that season. I looked at this roster after that game, and I realized that they had no chance competing against the Big 3 in Miami and knew they had to make a big move in order to get into contention. My prayers were answered that August when the Sixers traded for Andrew Bynum. They just acquired a star center and would be a contender in the East to at least challenge LeBron James. My God, I am still cringing over the thought of that trade.
I got to go to the home opener that season with my brother and my cousin and, although Bynum was not playing, I was still excited to see my Sixers play. I can still remember when they were introducing the roster, Matt Chord (Sixers PA announcer) introduced Andrew Bynum, and the arena exploded. It was like the reaction when Stone Cold Steve Austin helped Mankind win the WWF Title. Unfortunately, that was the most exciting thing about Andrew Bynum’s time in Philadelphia, as he would never play a game with them. Which turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Philadelphia.
The Sixers finished that season missing out on the playoffs and would be selecting eleventh in the NBA draft. It also led to the hiring of Sam Hinkie. The draft that night was at the same time as a summer league game that I had so I would be missing the beginning of it.
The draft that night was at the same time as a summer league game that I had so I would be missing the beginning of it. When I walked into my house my dad was watching the draft and goes “they just traded your boy Holiday.”
I was shocked. Jrue Holiday was just an all-star (albeit because of injuries to many other guards in the East) so they had to have gotten something good back. The deal was Nerlens Noel (who won’t play all season) and a top-five protected pick for Jrue Holiday. I turned to my brother and said, “they are gonna be so bad next year.”
That is when it clicked to me, this team is not good enough to win an NBA title as currently constructed. We need a bonafide superstar, and the only way to get that is by picking at the top of the NBA draft. That is what sparked the “winless for Wiggins” campaign in Philadelphia.
Fast forward to next year’s draft and the Sixers are picking third and tenth. With the third pick, the Sixers picked Joel Embiid. I loved his potential, but just like the past two years, I had to wait an entire year to see our center play. They also picked Dario Saric, who I also had to wait to see play. I was fine with that, if Embiid is supposed to be a star, I can wait for it. I did not want to be mediocre anymore. I did not want eight seeds and first round eliminations. I wanted championships. So I proceeded to spend the next year watching the same Joel Embiid highlight videos on YouTube. I watched his dream shake against New Mexico in the Big 12 tournament and his pre-draft workout videos more times than I can count.
The following off-season, I was sitting at a Chickie’s and Pete’s with my teammates in between games of a basketball tournament in Allentown, Pennsylvania, when I got the alert that Embiid would have to undergo another surgery and miss the 2015-2016 season. This tested everyone’s patience. So much so that people stopped trusting Sam Hinkie and the “Process.” I had my doubts for sure, but I still believed that things would work out for the Sixers in the end. Embiid could still get healthy and they would have another top pick.
The Sixers won ten games that season and landed the top pick in the draft. This time they were without Sam Hinkie. I was always on board with the plan, but he had his pitfalls. The Okafor pick was probably the one that got him fired, but like many great painters, he will be remembered for his brilliance after his time.
Last night the Sixers played the Raptors and the most important players for Philadelphia were Dario Saric and Joel Embiid, Hinkie’s two most controversial decisions. As I heard the “Trust the Process” chants rain down from the crowd, the word that crossed my mind was hope. What these men are bringing for Sixers fans and myself is hope. Hinkie brought hopes of a championship that outside of the Phillies in 2008, has alluded Philadelphia since 1983. It has been a long couple of years, but because of Bynum, Hinkie, and Joel Embiid, Philadelphia fans have hope again. As a fan that is all you need.