The 2010s are officially over, so what better way to wrap things up from the last decade than looking back at the best and worst of the Philadelphia 76ers! The last 10 years have been a wild ride, one that has been filled with both ups and downs. If you have stuck by the team over this span, congratulations, the light at the end of the tunnel seems to be getting closer.
The first two years of the decade were much of the same as the many years prior, being good enough to make the playoffs but not being able to do much once there. The team did find some success during the 2012 playoffs, beating the hobbled Chicago Bulls in round one and forcing the Boston Celtics to seven games in round two. I have fond memories of being huddled around an iPhone watching the ESPN GameCast of Game Seven on my eighth grade field trip to see if the eight seed could pull off the impossible. I’d always been a Sixers fan, but it was that moment that I realized how much I really cared.
After years of being a middle of the pack team stuck in basketball purgatory, the Sixers finally made a move to acquire a superstar. Andrew Bynum was going to be the star that would bring Philadelphia a championship. Knee issues and a trip to the bowling alley derailed all of those expectations and sent the team into a very lengthy rebuild that some of you might be familiar with.
Things seemed to be headed in the right direction with the selections of Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams in the 2013 NBA Draft, along with the hiring of new head coach Brett Brown. Even with Noel missing his rookie season due to a torn ACL suffered in college, MCW was able to show people the Sixers had a true building block by winning the 2014 Rookie of the Year award. With Brown at the helm fans felt like maybe the front office picked the best option to right the ship. Remember, this is a Process and you need to trust it.
It was the 2014 NBA Draft that helped finally turn things around. The Sixers drafted Joel Embiid, a big man from Cameroon with bad feet, with the third overall pick. Even though he looked miserable when his name was announced, fans were drawn to him because of his infectious personality and larger than life social media accounts. These few years of Sixers basketball are among the worst basketball in league history. Many said the team would lose their fans by trying to lose games, and yet here we are.
A few years later the team drafted the Australian point guard who had been getting comparisons to LeBron James for years. Ben Simmons followed the Sixers routine of missing his rookie year, but once he hit the floor he showed exactly why many believed he would be a quick rising star. Putting Simmons next to a healthy Joel Embiid, who finished third in Rookie of the Year voting, and Dario Saric (yes, he came over!), who finished second, looked like a recipe for success. The Sixers struggled for so long so they could be put in this position — a roster now filled with young talent looked ready to finally compete.
The 2017 season is what so many waited years for. Led by Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons, one of the best young players in the NBA in Joel Embiid, and a great supporting cast the Sixers blew away expectations and finished as the third seed in the East. Even without top pick Markelle Fultz the Sixers were rolling. A hard fought series win against the Miami Heat had many believing the team could make some serious noise. That didn't end up being the case as the Boston Celtics won the next round in five games, but all in all the season was looked at as a great success.
With heightened expectations heading into the 2018 season the Sixers went for it in an attempt to bring home a championship. Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris were brought in and Process OG’s Robert Covington and Dario Saric had to say their sad farewells. In the end it was the robot known as Kawhi Leonard who broke the Sixers’ hearts in round two of the playoffs by hitting a buzzer beater in Game Seven to knock Philadelphia out of the playoffs. Players and fans alike were heartbroken, and yet we had to move on.
Moves were made this offseason to fix problems that hurt the Sixers in the playoffs. Whether they end up working out is still to be seen. No longer is the roster filled with 10-Day contracts. Now there are legit stars like Simmons, Embiid, Harris and Al Horford. That in itself should be celebrated.
The Philadelphia 76ers went from a team with no real direction other than to maybe make the playoffs and lose in the first round to a team that has a real shot of winning a championship. There are so many things I didn't even mention, whether it’s the crazy parents, the burner accounts that shocked the NBA world, or even the first round pick who forgot how to play basketball. The Sixers may be the weirdest franchise in the NBA, and this decade proves it.
But even with all of the injuries, the bust draft picks and the buzzer beaters that bounce off the rim fifty times, we are still here. The fans did come back (did they ever really leave?) and The Process worked. Sam Hinkie tried something different, and honestly I’d rather have it blow up in his face than sit around and make the same complacent moves year in and year out that won’t win games. The Sixers are set up for success in the future because of what was done in the last ten years, so let’s sit back and be thankful for all of those ups and downs, because hopefully we only have ups to talk about in the next decade.