Like many of you, I wasn’t exactly shocked by Wednesday’s news that Sam Hinkie had resigned from his post as President. I was, however, deeply disappointed.
The writing was on the wall from the moment the team hired Jerry Colangelo, an NBA old-schooler with far-reaching connections throughout the league, to serve as its Chairman of Basketball and act as a "Special Advisor" to the ownership group. I had hoped then, back in December, that the two could work in some degree of concert with one another, with Hinkie keeping the the team’s long-term vision intact and Colangelo mending relationships with executives and agents, providing the team with the cachet his name evokes, and helping to maximize the value of the team’s treasure trove of assets. Instead, it became more and more clear that Colangelo didn’t believe Hinkie was qualified to continue ahead with that degree of control and that a coup was inevitable.
Many other writers here at Liberty Ballers have broken down the various aspects of this move and what it means for Sixers basketball moving forward. This morning, Marc Whittington penned an essay on his own nascent fandom and how he’ll cope in the post-Hinkie era. What I hope to add to the discussion is to work through my own thoughts on fanhood in general and how I can move ahead as a fan without guilt or other malignant feelings.
Firstly, I’d like to make one thing abundantly clear. The Philadelphia 76ers do not deserve your support, and should you choose to abandon them in this moment nobody should (or likely would) blame you. I’ve long felt that the xenocentric rooting interests that are the norm in sports are somewhat counterintuitive. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a fan of the four Philly teams since I was old enough to sound out Randall Cunningham’s name. But now, in adulthood, I realize that I’m not beholden to these four teams should they no longer operate in a way that I find to be 1) intelligent and effective, and 2) ethically righteous. Speaking candidly, having worked for the Sixers for four years and having seen how the sausage was made, there were times even before this week when I considered taking a step back as a fan.
But here’s the thing. I like the Sixers. I enjoy watching Brett Brown coach, watching Nerlens Noel and Jerami Grant grow from month to month, daydreaming about the bright future the team could have should some ping pong balls and a seven-footer’s navicular bone choose to cooperate… I liked Sam Hinkie, flaws and all, because he had a plan that made sense to me, and he had the fortitude to stick to it. He’s gone, and his process might be gone too, but there are still a lot of things I like about this team that are still here. I root for the Sixers not because I support their billionaire owners nor because I think they do right by their employees, from a mere Digital Media Coordinator to the President of Basketball Operations. I do so because I enjoy it, and as soon as I stop enjoying it I’ll simply stop watching.
We’ve gone through basketball hell for three years. And look, I actually enjoyed a lot of the tangential aspects of the rebuild and adore the community we cultivated, but the hoops we watched were as bad as it gets. We continued to stand by because we believed in the longterm success bottoming out could afford us, and now, with heaps of cap space, a fully stocked cupboard of draft picks, and a handful of high-upside young players already in the pipeline, that success could come relatively soon, even with the Colangelos at the helm. (ed. note: I think Jerry and Bryan will actually do a fine job; I mostly object to the process that resulted in their hiring)
So what the hell do we do now? Do we bail? Do we find a new team? Do we continue to root for the Sixers simply because we were born in the Delaware Valley or chose them willfully at some point in the past?
I think that those of us who’ve stuck this out, who’ve supported the team through this historically aggressive rebuild, deserve to enjoy the fruits of our efforts. I, for one, will continue to root for the success of this franchise, not for the sake of Jerry or Bryan Colangelo, nor for Scott O’Neil, and certainly not for Josh Harris and Co… I’m doing this for me.
I’m also doing this for Sam Hinkie, who I hope can be at least partially vindicated if and when the team he helped de- and re-construct finally turns things around. Of course, there will be loud and uninformed voices in the media who will choose to ignore Hinkie’s contributions regardless of the outcome, but we’ll know. And thoughtful people in the national media will know.
But that said, should this next phase of the rebuild be characterized by short-sighted transactions, uninspired draft choices, and mismanagement of the players currently on the roster, I feel 100% justified in saying that at that point I can walk away from this team without guilt.
So when we gather a month and a half from today at the Rights To Ricky Sanchez Lottery Party, let’s root like hell for the Sixers to get the #1 pick. Better yet, let’s root for the Sacramento Kings to get it, and for it to convey to us via the pick swap bartered by Hinkie last summer. Let’s pray for the Lakers pick to land at #4, and let’s hope the bum-ass Celtics fall out of the top five. That’s what Sam said he’ll be doing in the final sentence of his leaked, 13-page resignation letterearlier this week. He can no longer be our Billy Beane, but maybe, just maybe, he can be our Ed Wade.
So if you hate ownership right now, if you think Jerry Colangelo is a conniving snake, if you think Bryan Colangelo, as innocent in this as he may be in all this, simply isn’t the right man for the job, you’re certainly not alone. All that doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t enjoy the Sixers anymore, but it also doesn’t mean you have to sit idly by and continue to support them either. It’s ultimately your choice. If you decide to walk away, that’s on them, not you.