As nearly all of America’s non-essential workers have been required to stay home to combat the spread of COVID-19, and as the NBA, MLB, NHL and NFL have all completely halted proceedings for the time being, a massive void opened up in the country’s entertainment menu.
We all looked around at each other.
With no more sports, what will we all watch?
I don’t care how long this lasts — I WILL NOT learn to read.
Just when times were bleakest, we all searched for a hero.
We got one.
Our hero comes in the form of Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness — a seven-part Netflix docuseries about Joe Exotic, Doc Antle and a bevy of other titans in the world of the exotic animal trade. Pitted against Mr. Exotic is Carol Baskin, outspoken adversary and owner of Big Cat Rescue.
The show is a masterpiece. Sure, it’s possible that the nation fell head over heels in love with this show because we’ve all been forced into solitary confinement. Whatever the reason, man, it is captivating to watch Exotic and his group of soldiers do their best to evade Ms. Baskin, their competitors, and eventually, the federal government of the United States.
So I thought — being that I have a column due weekly about a team and a sport no longer in operation — this whole saga harkens back to our very own Sixers and The Process, as it were. Let’s take a look at which Process figures align most closely with their counterparts in the Tiger King cinematic universe.
It should be noted that this is tongue-in-cheek. A vast majority of the people in Tiger King do and say reprehensible things the entire time, not the least of which is the titular ‘King,’ himself. Doc Antle is gross, and ‘gross’ is literally the kindest word that applies. Even the most morally-motivated lead character — Carole Baskin — was alleged to have murdered her husband and disposed of his body.
So that’s tough.
But let’s have some fun.
Sam Hinkie is Joe Exotic
You have never met anyone quite like Joe Exotic and you've never watched a story quite like Tiger King. pic.twitter.com/gQGoCqmTqn— Netflix US (@netflix) March 20, 2020
Both Sam Hinkie and Joe Exotic had a vision.
Sam wanted to do away with mediocrity in Philadelphia 76ers basketball by exploiting the NBA’s incentivized lottery system.
Joe Exotic wanted to buy and sell as many exotic animals as possible while running his zoo and also running for president of the United States and Governor of Oklahoma, and dropping fire music day after day. He also wanted to become a reality star with his daily internet show.
These men went up against the practices we’ve all come to accept as normal, and just because (OK, not just because) they had the guts to be visionaries, they suffered the consequences.
For Sam, he was usurped of his power and thus resigned from his post with the Sixers.
Joe was arrested in Florida for concocting a murder-for-hire plot against his rival.
Adam Silver is Carole Baskin
In 2016, NBA commissioner Adam Silver corresponded with Sixers owner Josh Harris (more on him later) about his willingness to welcome Jerry Colangelo (more on him later, too) into the 76ers organization. Silver hated the Sixers’ bald tanking experiment that had been shepherded by Sam Hinkie. He thought it made the league look bad, and he wanted to put a stop to it.
Carole Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue operates for the express purpose to put an end to the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park and zoos of the like. She acted, day in and day out, in moral opposition to Joe Exotic and worked tirelessly to put a stop to him.
Both figures won, in the end.
Silver and Baskin triumphed over Mr. Hinkie and Mr. Exotic.
But still, generations of fans remain who will celebrate and mourn their fallen leader, despite present circumstances.
Daryl Morey is Bhagavan ‘Doc’ Antle
The similarities between Daryl Morey and Doc Antle have much to do with their kinship with Sam Hinkie and Joe Exotic.
For many years, Sam Hinkie worked under the tutelage of Morey in Houston. Hinkie molded his basketball philosophy with Morey, as their team-building strategies improved from their shared time together. Even once Hinkie became GM in Philadelphia, the ‘competition’ between the two remained friendly and respectful from a distance.
Doc Antle and Joe Exotic headed concurrent exotic animal parks down south. In Tiger King both men speak respectfully of the other, despite their shared space in a competitive field.
Both Daryl Morey and Doc Antle continue to lead their squads long after their comrades have been ousted. Now, they are tasked with withstanding the same arrows that were once slung at Hinkie and Exotic.
Jerry Colangelo is Jeff Lowe
We all know the Colangelo fable.
He joined the Sixers organization, started trading second-round picks all the way from Phoenix via Skype, and, before long, nudged Sam Hinkie out in favor of his son, Bryan. He’s a powerful man who does not take kindly to the word ‘no.’
Friends, meet Jeff Lowe.
In remarkably similar fashion (save for the son part), Lowe bought into the G. W. Zoo under the guise of ‘working together’ with Joe Exotic to help the park reach its full potential. In the span of a mere three episodes, Lowe begun conspiring with the FBI in an effort to do away with Exotic, leaving no one to run the Zoo but Mr. Lowe, himself. Funny how that happens.
Josh Harris is Rick Kirkham
When Hinkie was appointed as Sixers General Manager in 2013, he was in lockstep with team owner Josh Harris. Hinkie had a vision— a vision that would take time, a vision that was not for the queasy or the short-sighted. Harris was all in, and empowered Sam to work freely. A few years and a few rich men pressuring him later, Harris had seen enough. He conspired with Silver and Colangelo (Baskin, Lowe) and, soon enough, severed ties with the man to whom he once gave his word.
Rick Kirkham was Joe Exotic’s producer. The two were bound together by the common goal of making Joe a reality star. When the going got tough, the two had a falling-out and Kirkman left Mr. Exotic in the lurch. He was short-sighted, much like Josh Harris.
He failed to back up any of the hours of footage he had compiled with Joe that was then incinerated in a mysterious fire.
Joel Embiid is John Finlay
Time and again, Joel Embiid stated his allegiance to Sam Hinkie. Hinkie was the GM who drafted him, the first person who took a shot on Embiid — a center with limitless talent, but a mountain of risk. The two bonded throughout their shared time in Philadelphia, and while Embiid’s time in the city goes on, he seldom goes a few months without reminding the public how he feels about his former GM.
John Finlay, as the ex (possibly current?) husband of Joe Exotic, had a more turbulent relationship with the central figure. As the series went on, Finlay’s desire to spread his wings became more and more clear. But there was, no doubt, an inextricable bond that was formed by the two men throughout their relationship — both personal and professional.
Embiid and Finlay are both charming figures who now must work to excel in their field— in their city — without the man who brought them there.
Until next week.