Following the death of his friend Julius Caesar, Antony famously remarked, “I have come here to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do is remembered after their deaths, but the good is often buried with them.”
There are some similarities between the story of Caesar and former Sixers president Sam Hinkie. They’re not perfectly aligned, but the stories of two powerful leaders who met an early demise at the hands of others warrants comparison.
Caesar, a general beloved by the Roman people for his military conquests, lost his life at the hands of his friends and associates for their own self-serving purposes. Hinkie, a general manager who became a cult figure in the Sixers community for his deal making prowess and commitment to (eventual) greatness, met his maker in the form Adam Silver, the NBA and Josh Harris, who installed the Colangelo family at the helm of the franchise to (likely) satisfy league wide financial motives.
No, Hinkie was not a saint. His transgressions with fellow executives and agents alongside the general lack of improvement surely played a role in his untimely death from a professional standpoint.
But for all his misgivings, Hinkie undoubtedly provided the Sixers with a path to greatness via The Process, setting the team up for repeated cracks at franchise altering talent. Hinkie’s accumulation of picks has thankfully resulted in Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, two potential franchise cornerstones that could be in Philadelphia for a decade-plus if things go according to plan. Hinkie’s ability to pull off lopsided trades, particularly the Sacramento Kings trade that included the option to swap first-round picks for two consecutive years, as well as the Michael Carter-Williams deal that sent the Lakers top-three protected pick to Philadelphia, earned him additional acclaim in the Sixers community.
Yet all things must come to an eventual conclusion, and it was clear that The Process was dying out. Between the shift in management, the on-court arrival of Embiid, the expected debut of Simmons and the passing of the pick swap options, the rebuilding aspect of Hinkie’s plan had essentially run its course. With most of the pieces in place, the franchise is now set to head down a more competitive path.
But this is where the story of Caesar and Hinkie differs.
On May 16th, the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery and the accompanying party at XFINITY Live provided Sixers fans with the opportunity to not only bury Hinkie’s Process, but to properly honor it as well.
How could they not; Hinkie’s fingerprints were all over the evening. The Sixers own pick, the Lakers pick, and a potential pick swap provided the Sixers with the “optionality” that Hinkie had always coveted. And the man representing the organization at the lottery on such a momentous evening was none other than The Process himself. If there was ever a time to properly honor Hinkie for what he brought to the Sixers organization, Tuesday evening was it.
While the lottery party was technically a funeral, it was treated more like a celebration of life. The raising of the Hinkie/Process banner into the rafters at XFINITY Live was a necessary ode of one of the most important chapters in the team’s history. Hinkie’s efforts laid the groundwork for the Sixers to go out and win the championship he so desperately coveted when he first put his plan into action on draft night 2013.
He had a vision, and in a sense, the banner represents his undying pursuit of excellence. But it also represents the people, the Process faithful, who stood in support of Hinkie and having the longest view in the room. As Spike Eskin said to the crowd of 3,000-plus prior to the raising of the banner, the Sixers are not their CEO. The Sixers are not their general manger, or even their owners.
The Sixers are the fans who banded together over the past four years in support of a man to whom they felt was capable of delivering the city its first Larry O’Brien trophy since 1983. It was likely done unintentionally, but Hinkie’s Process created a tight knit community of Sixers fans that previously did not exist as the team wallowed away in mediocrity for the better part of a decade. Regardless of the constant losing, Hinkie gave the people a reason to care again. All you had to do was buy in.
The Process was a manifestation of the vision of Sixers fans who wanted to be not good but truly great, and Hinkie acted as a conveyor for that line of thinking. The banner represented not just Hinkie and The Process, but the intrinsic bond between a general manager and the people he dutifully served.
So with the banner flying high in the rafters of XFINITY Live and thousands of people on the floor chanting “Pick Swap!” as they watched the NBA Draft order fall into place, it was only right that -- despite all the odds -- the pick swap actually came into play.
The Sixers jumped all the way from fifth pick to the top three, sending XFINITY Live into pandemonium as everyone realized that another Hinkie move was going to be paying dividends. They had a legitimate shot at finishing that high with their own pick, but the fact that the Sixers had to rely on a team with just a 9.8 percent chance to land them a top-three selection was remarkably fitting given the evening’s festivities. On a night devoted entirely to Sam Hinkie and The Process, he once again demonstrated how the moves he made in years past set the team up for longterm success. He may not be in a position to reap the benefits, but Sixers fans will as they continue to honor the legacy of his work.
The 2017 Draft Lottery brought a fitting close to the end of The Process. A new chapter in Sixers history is set to be written this season, with a run at the playoffs now in the forefront. The Process was buried. Its leader was honored. And the banner flying high above XFINITY Live will serve as a thoughtful reminder of it all.