At all of the Philadelphia 76ers’ home games during their series against the Boston Celtics, fans were given T-shirts printed with a Sixers logo and the slogan “Passionate. Intense. Proud.”
The fans are passionate, and the players are intense, but it is hard to be proud.
The Sixers lost Game 7 to the Celtics, and they should have won. I am not saying that they should have won because of the talent level of their players, because let’s face it — they had the weaker roster. I am not saying they should have won because they played better, because they didn’t. I am saying they should have won because they are the Philadelphia 76ers.
And that used to mean something.
The Celtics will face, and be steamrolled by, the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals. They beat the Sixers 85-75 in Game 7 because they defended better and shot the ball better than the Sixers did. They also have the better players.
They are honoring Bill Russell, Robert Parish, Kevin McHale and Larry Bird.
The 76ers used to be a proud organization. The team name on the front of the jerseys used to be a symbol of excellence. Wilton Norman Chamberlain wore that jersey. Julius Erving wore that jersey. Allen Iverson wore that jersey. The Sixers are not honoring their past; they are letting down their predecessors with years and years of mediocre play.
Leading into this year, it had been a string of horrendous ownership, team management and personnel that set up the team for another disappointing season. I’m sorry, but making it to the second round of the playoffs does not cut it for me.
There are certain teams that built the NBA. They are the Los Angeles Lakers, the New York Knicks, the Celtics and the 76ers. Those other three teams are competitive almost every single year, and if they begin to lag behind, they do something about it. They understand the legacy that was left before them, and they will do anything they can to honor it.
For the past 10 years, the Sixers have disgraced their team name and have done nothing about it. They made lousy business decisions, drafted the wrong players, hired the wrong coaches and put money in the wrong places. The NBA is a broken league that has had a dysfunctional business model for years, and if you make one mistake paying the wrong player a lot of money, you will pay for it for a decade.
In the realm of Philadelphia sports, the Sixers have let themselves become fourth fiddle. The fans disappeared with the talent of 2001, and the wins have evaporated just as quickly.
It has been 29 years since the Philadelphia 76ers won the NBA championship. That is something that should not happen.
Unless they can free up money and make a monster signing or can somehow orchestrate a blockbuster trade during the offseason, they will make it an even 30 years.
Let me be clear: I have nothing but adoration for the team, head coach Doug Collins, and the new ownership group of Josh Harris and Adam Aron. I think that the team truly played to the best of its abilities, Doug Collins did a phenomenal job coaching what he was given, and the new owners, Aron especially, created a spark around 76ers basketball once again.
However, everyone involved with the Sixers needs to be done with losing. This team needs to remember what they represent, and they need to honor that. If Collins, the owners and team president Rod Thorn sit around reflecting on the growth of their young team and become satisfied with making it to the second round of the playoffs, then nothing will change, and true success will continue to elude this team.
Be proud that this team showed heart, and be proud that they worked hard all season, but do not be satisfied.
After the 2001 title run, the organization became satisfied and got lazy. What followed, my formative years as a Sixers fan, were not years reflective of this franchise at all.
All season long the Sixers have tried to attract fans by boasting that they have the third most wins and playoff appearances in NBA history. Saying that over the loudspeaker at games doesn’t honor anyone or anything.
I say the 76ers should have won Game 7 because they are the 76ers; it never should have come to this. They should be a team that is feared, a team with superstar players, and a team in which fans can be confident. They should have been the better team with the better players. This franchise is full of incredible players, gregarious coaches, and the best fans in the world.
With every mediocre season, the 76ers are becoming more and more detached from who they once were. That needs to change.
I am confident that this team is headed in the right direction, and I hope that in a few years I can look at the team on the court and say, “Yes, I am proud of this team.”