When Jrue Holiday was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans during the 2013 NBA Draft, shockwaves were sent through the landscape of the NBA. After all, Philly seemed to have had an All-Star caliber point guard stashed in its back pocket paired with several other double digit scorers who, collectively, had the potential to guide the Sixers to a 7th or 8th seed playoff berth year after year. This tale of mediocrity wasn’t enough for Sam Hinkie as he began his roster “experiment” that now has an entire fan base on pins and needles trying to decipher what cookie jar the GM will poke his hand into next. One thing, however, is quite clear; the fashion in which the Sixers operate their organization is different from the norm.
According to the paradigm above, it makes perfect sense that the Sixers would branch out and host an unprecedented 100% free draft party.
The rain just began to slightly drizzle as fans gathered around Dilworth Park on the west side of City Hall. Doors were to open at 6 o’clock, but there was a noticeable buzz surrounding the faithful before the entrance was ajar. The far side from the entrance contained two 19-foot screens that were presumably to be used for holding pre-draft interviews, organizing various activities/entertainment, and, of course, broadcasting the much anticipated draft.
Oh, and there was food.
Once the event began, hundreds scurried to the several food tents that lined the outside. The food menu was quite impressive; it included Papa John’s, Insomnia cookies, Rita’s Water Ice, Friendly’s, and a few other kind caterers. I myself waited in a line for Papa John’s for almost 30 minutes, but being surrounded by fellow Sixers fans and being reminded of the six picks Philly had at their disposal for the night made every second worth it. The food, like mentioned, was free: this was quite the class act from an organization worth millions showing it has a common touch with the public. I should’ve been surprised but then I remembered yet again:
The Sixers run things differently from the norm.
As the evening progressed and the rain pounded, CSN Philly legend Marc Zumoff stole the show and began to interview Sixers legends. With the exception of the several kids present, most attendees were able to sit and appreciate the greatness that stood before them. Appearances were made by Bobby Jones, World B. Free, Theo Ratliff, Darryl Dawkins, Moses Malone and The Doctor, Julius Erving, who (as expected) received the loudest ovation upon sharing his thoughts regarding his former team on the portable stage. With the exception of the VIP tent and the sectioned off picnic tables for season ticket holders, the layout of the event permitted an ambiance to form that allowed fans to feel up close and personal with the several Sixers greats in attendance. For example, while standing among a crowd my eyes lit up as all 6 feet 10 inches of Moses Malone was sliding by. Later on, I even caught sight of Bobby Jones posing with fans in front of a Sixers back drop. Shocked by the ease fans were able to meet these legends at an event for no cost? You shouldn’t be.
The Sixers run things differently from the norm.
Marc Zumoff said it best as he proclaimed shortly before the Timberwolves hit the clock on ESPN that “only Sixers fans would come out, in the pouring rain, to a draft party!” According to a Sixers representative I spoke to, not just a “few” fans came out, but rather approximately 2,500 Sixers faithful made the trip to Dilworth Park. Behind those 2,500 or so cheers rung following Zumoff’s emphatic statement, there was a nervousness hovering over the crowd. The draft was upon us.
As expected, Minnesota took Karl-Anthony Towns with the first selection. The buzz that was caused by the apparent solution to Philly’s backcourt problems suddenly turned to “boo’s” as Los Angeles selected D’Angelo Russell with the second pick. That left the Sixers at number three with several options, including possibly a trade with Boston. When all was said and done, Jahlil Okafor became a Sixer and the story documenting Philly’s logjam in its frontcourt gained a new chapter.
After the pick was made, several fans exited. I was approached by a cameraman who asked me my thoughts on the draft pick. Truthfully, I knew we needed a point guard (and I wasn’t afraid to say it) but I also made sure I took notice of Jahlil’s offensive skill set and how it could do wonders for a once anemic offense. Yes, the Sixers now have three 7 foot centers and common basketball knowledge tells us that won’t work.
But remember: The Sixers run things differently from the norm.
So Sixers fans, come along for the ride. We should all appreciate how the Sixers have completely broken off from the rest of the NBA in terms of fan relations and player development, and Thursday night proved to be a continuation of that.
The trend continues.