The Sixers just obliterated a playoff team, in a game without Joel Embiid, JJ Redick and with only 4 points from Ben Simmons. With Justin Anderson baptizing the Milwaukee Bucks and dropping 25 in the process. With Markelle Fultz getting a 13-10-10 triple-double in 25 minutes. As the crowd erupted into a “Trust the Process” chant that caused a collective Philadelphian orgasmic release that registered as a modest-yet-impressive 3.7 on the Richter Scale.The Sixers are on a 16 game win streak heading into the 2018 NBA playoffs as the 3rd seed with a 52-30 record. The Sixers have come so far, in such a short amount of time, it oftens makes me question my own reality.
People have asked, “What do the Sixers need to do now to make it all worth it?” They’ve done it. From an outsider’s perspective, it appears to have been too torturous a ride to say it has already been vindicated. But the thing is, it was never torturous. Not even close.
What I imagine being torturous is being an Orlando Magic fan. From the start of the Process to the end of last season, the Orlando Magic had accumulated 112 wins compared to the Sixers’ 75 -- a little less than 10 more wins a season on average. And what do the Magic have to show for it? They’ve attempted to build a team around a dunk contest champion and some spare change from the Dario Saric trade, that the Magic have now donated to the Phoenix Suns. The Magic have been trying to rebuild since they sent Dwight Howard packing in the 2012 offseason. This is but one example of a team that’s suffered longer than the Sixers and has less to show for it other than a few more wins, in a losing season regardless. We’ve been there, and we never want to go back.
4 years is nothing in comparison to the teams floating in a pool of mediocrity and no visible path to contention. That’s why the Process has already been vindicated. It only took 4 years to field a pool of talent that’s making NBA General Managers say things like, “No one wants to see the Sixers in the playoffs.” It only took 4 years to acquire two already All-NBA level talents in Sixers uniforms. Only 4 years.
“They’ll never come back!” they said. A total 833,503 fans stepped through the doors into the Wells Fargo Center this season, 3rd highest total in the NBA. And what you’ll hear from many of them is that this particular team is the most exciting and enjoyable Philadelphia basketball team they’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. The youth and promise shown only causes one to drift in a mental state of nirvana, far exceeding the previously perceived depths of despair. In Sixers basketball, fleeting hope had been a stalwart. But the promise around this team is palpable. It’s real.
I could list the moments. Everything that made this season so special. But in some ways, it could diminish the current situation. Because no single moment can match the overall enjoyment flowing through the veins of Sixers fans at this very second.
And so what tomorrow brings is an unknown. And to a Sixers fan, that’s special. The known is safe and steady, and most importantly, mediocre. The known is made up of Elton Brands and Jrue Holidays and Thaddeus Youngs. The known is a playoff series or two, and doing it all again the next year. The unknown, on the other hand, is what dreams are made of. How great can this team be? One can only dream.
Contracts, injuries. Setbacks, catastrophes. They happen. But as far as any given collection of talent can fall, this particular collection can climb doubled. Hope is a dangerous thing; hope can drive a man insane. But what Andy Dufresne knew was that tangible hope can transpire into sheer elation, a cathartic experience. The product of Sixers’ fans hope is the joy of watching a bunch of basketball-loving, seemingly-teenage ballers instill fear in the hearts of grown men.
For millenial fans, the expectations of this team have never been matched. For the wise fan, the Sixers haven’t exhibited the same swagger since Dr. J was sporting the red, white and blue. The Process is only beginning, and there’s no formula to predict the heights this franchise can reach. But like love at first sight, it took just one season for Sixers fans to taste an entree of promise. What the future may bring, no one knows for sure. But what this season has gifted the fanbase? Well, it only adds to what, for many, is the greatest year in Philadelphia sports. The stuff movies are made of.
Hell of a season.