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The Dario Diaries Vol. 5: Not All Who Wander Are Lost

It’s been a long, strange trip for the Sixers. Enjoy it.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

938 days ago, a man asked for some patience in building a basketball team. His pleas were met with criticism, some more valid than others, but also with hope. Spending two lottery picks, the most precious currency in the whole sport, on two players those critics claimed would never see the court in 76ers red, white and blue was a leap of faith on those who followed that process.

All those nights of sleepless worry, the days of wondering if those contrarians may have been right all along, have been forgotten like a quick dream in the morning after.

The idea that 16,000 people in an arena in South Philadelphia could find salvation, the feeling of elation that comes with their faith being rewarded, in a man born in Cameroon and another in Croatia, seems ripped from a pseduo-inspirational ‘90s sports movie on the Disney Channel, but this is the strange world we now all inhabit.

Here we are at the crossroads where all of that faith is processed and turned into reality, where a 7’2” Herculean man can seemingly be everywhere on the court at once and a 6’10” dude with a goofy haircut can ignite a crowd in this town as if he were Rocky Balboa himself. Last night, behind Joel Embiid’s dominating 26-point, nine-rebound, four-block performance and Dario Saric’s eight-point, nine-rebound, two-block effort in a win against the Toronto Raptors, it felt as if finally, after almost four years, things were finally going according to plan. His plan.

All of the losses, all of the humiliation, all of the dread and confusion over whether this has all been worth it, look to have been eradicated over the last month, as Philadelphia is now gifted a fresh, adrenaline-fueled, fun basketball team. There are no expectations. There is no second guessing of what these young guys are doing on the court. They are rookies after all. Every successive win feels so much sweeter because of the dearth of victories that have come before. Embiid’s motions to pump up the crowd from the free-throw line and Saric’s running, jumping three-point celebration will never feel as pure, as full of sheer exuberance and freedom from the restraints of the world, as they do currently. The Sixers are playing with house money right now and can’t stop rolling sevens.

Having faith, faith widely seen as misplaced for so long, begins to demonstrate why this loyalty was so important. It reminds me of a favorite poem of mine, one whose final two lines cover a picture on my nightstand.

One night I dreamed a dream.

As I was walking along the beach with Sam Hinkie,

Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.

For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,

One belonging to me and one to Hinkie.

After the last scene of my life flashed before me,

I looked back at the footprints in the sand.

I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,

especially at the very lowest and saddest times,

there was only one set of footprints.

This really troubled me, so I asked Hinkie about it.

‘Sam, you said once I decided to follow you,

You'd walk with me all the way.

But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,

there was only one set of footprints.

I don't understand why, when I needed you the most, you would leave me.’

He whispered, ‘My precious child, I love you and will never leave you,

never, ever, during your trials and testings.

When you saw only one set of footprints,

It was then that I carried you.’”

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