My most memorable moment as a Philly sports fan was Game 1 of the 2001 NBA finals. We went to LA with Mutombo, Iverson stepped over Tyrone Lue (skip ahead to 5:45 for the step over and post game interview, unbelievable), E. Snow and Aaron Mckie were the best teammates ever to play, and the Sixers stole Game 1 in OT from a Lakers team that was 'til then undefeated in the playoffs that year. It was phenomenal. I remember high-fiving people hanging out of cars on South street minutes after the game and embracing strangers. We screamed 'Beat LA,' 'Fuck Kobe,' and my personal favorite 'WHO WANTS TO SEX MUTOMBOOOO!?' It was quite a moment--a telling and admittedly pathetic one for us Philadelphians who haven't won anything in 24 years and counting. But it was our moment even if the feeling lasted for only a few days. It still was the closest feeling I, and many my age have had to winning a championship.
Now Iverson is gone and us die-hard Iverson fans cheer on the Nuggets as our second team. We buy $100 tickets to get as close as we can to him once a year and we curse George Karl for not being able to get his team to play anything that remotely resembles defense. There were mixed feelings when The Answer left last year, but everyone seemed to have the sentiment that this was it for awhile for Sixers basketball. Attendance immediately plummeted and most people stopped tuning in to watch every night.
Well, Philadelphia the Sixers are back already. Yes, they are in the lowly East, which I agree with Perfect Friend (cool name bro...) isn't as bad as people like to say it is, but as of today they are the 7th seed in the playoffs and headed for the 6th seed. They have gone 13-5 (13-5!?!?!) since January 26th and there is no other way to say it except this squad play can play ball.
Check out these numbers. For the season they are ranked 6th in the league in opponent's PPG. They are second in the league in rebound differential and while struggling to score early on in the season they have turned it on recently ranking 10th in scoring in their last 10 games. On the season they are 12th in the league in forcing turnovers and 1st in the league in their last 10 games. Their pressure D and rebounding fuels their fast break offense which is perfect for our young gunners as well as great to watch. They are peaking at the right time and are now only 5 back from getting to .500. Who woulda thought? (Well me, but no one was listening in October).
That is what is happening on the court. Off the court they finally fired Billy King (have to give him props for drafting Thad Young, but thats all you get Billy) and have brought in a proven and homegrown GM, Ed Stefansky. They are about to dump $26 million from CWebb and McKie's contracts and have one of the youngest and most promising squads in the league. They are coachable, controversy free, and fired-up. They are poised for free agency, I only worry they act too quickly and sign someone like Elton Brand (he will surely take the $17 mill option on his contract and play for the Clipshow again) or Gilbert Arenas this off-season. I can only hope they continue to build through the draft and wait for the right free agents to sign in the few years.
The plan used to be we would be bad for a few years and get top draft picks, but our team is already better than that and this is a good thing not a bad thing. I wrote about this last year as the Sixers finished strong last year. Well it has already paid off and the squad has continued to mature and improve by playing good basketball and winning. Nothing is guaranteed in the draft. The Celtics got the 5th pick in the draft after tanking to the worst record and if it wasn't for McHale giving them KG where would they be now? Simply put, "YOU PLAY TO WIN THE GAME!" There is nothing better for a young team than learning how to win together, nothing.
As for this season, wake up Philadelphia! These boys can play and they are entertaining as hell. They are non-stop fast breaks and wild dunks. They rebound, they pass, they don't give up and they play hard every night. Sure they aren't going to win a championship this year, but this is all part of the journey as a fan. For all the Iverson haters out there this team is what you have been asking for. And for all of you who miss AI, the highlight of your season may just be beyond March 19th when he visits Philly. PLAYOFFS!? PLAYOFFS!?