During the NBA Offseason’s down period, the SB Nation NBA team plans out theme days designed to attract discussion for fans yearning for NBA talk. Today’s theme is “Most Hyped”. Being fans of the Philadelphia 76ers, we should know how hype can get out of control and ultimately lead to being almost constantly let down. From Bynum to Baby Barkley, we've had our share of ridiculous hype. As such, the staff here at LB decided to write stories about the players who were hyped and the memories they provided (or lack thereof). But we’re going to start on a positive note. Enjoy!
Allen Iverson, by Michael Baumann
"Hype" often connotes disappointment and unrealized potential. You could make that case for Allen Iverson, but few players have made over a franchise the way Iverson did with the Sixers. One of the most notorious high school players in the country, then the No. 1 overall pick in one of the best drafts in NBA history, Iverson did nothing but raise and raise and raise expectations: Rookie of the Year, the famous crossover of Michael Jordan, the infamous "Practice" soliloquy. Then the scoring titles, the MVP, the NBA Finals appearance to which he dragged the Sixers, then, once there, almost single-handedly went to battle against the turn-of-the-century Lakers, fearlessly bouncing off Shaq like an indefatigable flea.
Iverson dominated the Philadelphia media landscape playing not only for the fourth-most popular pro sports team but (given Philadelphia's ties to the college game and depending on who you ask) maybe the fourth-most popular basketball team in the city. He did this during the hysterical heydays of Eric Lindros and Donovan McNabb.
Hype often connotes flash and noise but no substance. Iverson was flash and noise and 50 wins a year and 30 points a night.
Chris Webber, by Michael Levin
The last second banana the Sixers tried to pair with Iverson was the one I was most excited for and most disappointed by. The Webber trade (like the similarly kneeless Bynum trade years later) came out of nowhere in a pre-WOJBOMB world, so I found out from something called the television. It was a weekday night -- probably a Wednesday, these things always happen on a Wednesday -- and I remember jumping up and down -- actually jumping -- in my living room wearing only my boxers (typical). Turned out I did more jumping in that hour of excitement than C-Web did in his 114 games with the Sixers. He had no lift on his shot. No first step. And no chemistry with Iverson. And the fact that they had to trade all-time Sixers great KENNY THOMAS to get him? What a tremendous bummer.
Tim Thomas, by Derek Bodner
The disappointment with Tim Thomas was very similar to Evan Turner. It was a wasted opportunity. The 76ers reward for the awful Johnny Davis era was supposed to be salvation, much in the same way Evan Turner was supposed to make the Eddie Jordan mistake okay. The team had gone 22-60 with a depleted roster, but an influx of talent was on the way.
It's not even so much that Tim Thomas was a huge mistake. The problem is, the Sixers got the #2 pick in a 1 person draft. Keith Van Horn? Tim Thomas? Meh. Sure, Chauncey Billups turned out to be a heck of a player, but he struggled mightily early in his career, and who knows whether Brown would have stuck with him. Tracy McGrady was obviously the second best player in the draft, but it was hard to know that at the time. Tim Thomas made a negligible impact on the 76ers franchise during his 1+ seasons in Philadelphia. Getting the second pick in the draft was one of the opportunities to add legitimate talent around Allen Iverson, and it never materialized.
Evan Turner, by Justin F.
I do not know if he had the most hype or not, but when the Sixers drafted Evan Turner 2nd overall, there was a whole heck of a lot of hype behind the pick. As much as people want to blame the Sixers for going with Turner over Derrick Favors and DeMarcus Cousins, the sad truth is pretty much everybody and their mother had Evan Turner going #2 overall in that draft. By selecting Turner, the Sixers just did what most reasonable people expected them to do. Remember mission WTF, anyone? Wall-Turner-Favors. Even the smartest basketball minds are wrong sometimes, and Turner's inability to develop an overall efficient offensive game, among other things, cost him a shot at stardom. There was lots of hype around ET, but in the end, even the most ardent of Turner supporters must concede his NBA career has been all a bit disappointing.
Clarence Weatherspoon, by Roy Burton
"Baby Barkley." That simple, unfortunate nickname wound up being more of a disservice to Clarence Weatherspoon than anything.
Sure... much like Charles Barkley, Weatherspoon was an undersized (6'6"), caramel-complected power forward who had an affinity for grabbing rebounds over much larger men. But that's about where the similarities ended.
From the moment Weatherspoon was drafted by the 76ers in the summer of 1992 - mere days after Barkley was dealt to the Phoenix Suns - it was clear that the former Southern Miss standout would always be dogged with comparisons to "The Round Mound of Rebound." While he never lived up to the hype that followed him into the league, Weatherspoon had an enviable, 13-year NBA career (10,483 points and 6,846 rebounds). Only a select few remember that he was named to the All-Rookie Team in 1993, and even fewer recall that he averaged a double-double the following season (18.4 PPG, 10.1 RPG).
Sadly, Weatherspoon's stats had little impact on a Sixers team that never won more than 26 games during his five-plus seasons in Philadelphia. The arrival of Jerry Stackhouse in 1995 - and subsequently, Allen Iverson - would soon push Weatherspoon to the margins, and the man once known as "Baby Barkley" left Philly in 1998 with far less fanfare than the "other" Barkley received when he was traded six years earlier.
Jerry Stackhouse, by Dave Rueter
Desperately needing an organizational jolt following the depressing post-Barkley years, the Sixers selected Jerry Stackhouse #3 overall in the 1995 NBA Draft. Like almost every player association to Michael Jordan, the comparisons to MJ were as absurd as they were predictable. Sure, ‘Stack, too, was an off-guard from North Carolina, but so was Dante Calabria.
I should note here, though, that none of this stopped an 11 year old Dave Rueter from choosing a #42 jersey for his travel basketball team. ‘Lil Stack, as I was affectionately called, pumped in 0.8 points per that season, torching Warrington U-12 for a season-high two points one wintery Saturday morning.
Stackhouse earned the reputation as a residential bad ass. Along with throwing down with Jeff Hornacek (Keep your hands up, Horny!), ‘Stack infamously struggled to co-exist with Allen Iverson, the Sixers’ first round pick the following year. From Dime Mag:
Back when Iverson and Stack were two young guns in Philly, there were all sorts of rumors flying around that they didn’t get along. Some of it seemed true; others were just fabrications. But one disagreement definitely happened. During a morning shootaround in March of 1997, the two stars came to blows. One source told The New York Daily News Stackhouse started it by punching Iverson in the head. Both guys downplayed it later, and said they were cool with each other. But Stackhouse did drop this: “It was a fight between one guy who doesn’t know how to fight and another guy who didn’t want to.”
The organization choose Iverson, and the “Next Jordan” was shipped off to Detroit after just 2 ½ seasons with the team. Missing you, ‘Stack.
Larry Hughes, by Jake Pavorsky
Larry Hughes has a website devoted to how poor of a shooter he is. It's the first thing you see when you google his name (http://heylarryhughespleasestoptakingsomanybadshots.com/). That about sums up his career. Hughes spent one year at Saint Louis University, averaging 20 points a night. His play was good enough to have the Sixers waste, er, use, the 8th overall in the 1998 draft on him.
All of a sudden, the Sixers had a talented young backcourt in Hughes and of course Allen Iverson. And after Larry Hughes took his first professional jump shot, it all went down hill from there. Hughes was out of Philadelphia after two years, and Sixers fans watched as Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce (picks #9 and #10 in 1998) flourish with their respective teams.
Elton Brand, by Sean O’Connor
In high school, amongst my friend group, I was the lone person who gave a crap about the Sixers. The “nobody cares about the Sixers” lines were very real to me back then – I heard them on a regular basis, practically any time basketball or the Flyers or anything even remotely related to the team arose. Which is why I rubbed it in their faces when the Sixers signed Elton Brand. Sure, Brand suffered through a torn Achilles just 8 games into the prior season. Sure, he would be 33 and in his 14th year in the NBA at the end of his contract. But I didn’t care, because the Sixers signed someone who would make people care about the team again, or so I thought. At 17 that was important to me. The Sixers mattered, or at least I thought they did.
And then Elton Brand tore apart his shoulder and also got old and also isn’t here anymore but at least he played and stuff. Given this team’s recent history, that may actually have been a positive result.
Kwame Brown, by Brandon Lee Gowton
Kwame Brown. There isn’t much to say about that. When you get the chance to sign a former number one overall pick, how can you turn that down?
Andrew Bynum, by Rich Hofmann
Ho boy. Andrew Bynum's introductory press conference last August contained, in Twitter parlance, all of the hype. First off, it was open to the public, and over 1,000 fans showed up to watch their new seven-footer talk into a microphone. So when Bynum fielded the Philly media's questions with thoughts about sold-out arenas and moving to the area permanently, the answers were unsurprisingly met with thunderous approval. In fact, sometimes the cheers were so loud that he couldn't finish his sentence. Not only did the fan reaction build excitement. but it also created the allusion that Bynum's words had a certain type of validity.
Don't discount the symbolism of where the now-infamous spectacle was held. The presser wasn't at the team's practice facility, not in their arena, but at The National Constitution Center. You see, this wasn't just about acquiring the best offensive center in the league. This was about freedom, liberty, and our inalienable rights as Sixers fans to have a dominant low-post player fall into our laps every 30 years or so. Across the street from where the founding fathers started our fine country, another great thing was beginning. At least that was the idea.
Everyone knows how the last year turned out. Characterizing Bynum's time with the Sixers as a disaster is probably unfair to disasters. But here's a sneaking suspicion I have running through my mind one year later, with Bynum in Cleveland: Sixers fans might look back at the disastrous 2012-13 campaign almost, dare I say it, fondly. Sure, the season was a disaster, but it was such a disaster that the franchise was forced to make radical changes. Now the Sixers have a direction that I feel confident saying most of the fan base has embraced, and in a weird way, Andrew Bynum is very much to thank for that.
I'll stop before over-hyping Sam Hinkie.