2018 is the year for Philadelphia sports
The Philadelphia 76ers is making a presence, and the city of Philadelphia is here for it. After five distressing seasons with historic record losses, the 76ers make its first playoff appearance. They are riding a 16-game winning streak and stamping their mark as the third seed in the eastern conference, one rank above LeBron James and the three-time reigning conference champions, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Despite a Philadelphia-area company putting up three billboards in Cleveland recruiting James to “Complete the Process,” it’s time to disregard those signs on the highway as the 76ers are on the path to complete the process, their way. They are reaping the reward of “Trusting the Process,” a mantra derived by former 76ers general manager, Sam Hinkie.
In efforts to rebuild the franchise, Hinkie essentially dismantled their proficient roster with Jrue Holiday, Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner during the 2014 off season and selected center, Joel Embiid, with the third overall pick and traded with Orlando Magic for forward, Dario Saric. Hinkie referred to the era as “The Process,” and believed this was the best way to build a star-studded, championship-caliber team. In other words, the team tanked. They took the dreadful yet easier route instead of investing time to grow their players or execute a strategic model to build a strong team.
Initially, Embiid was a disappointment to Philadelphia fans as the seven-footer from Cameroon, Africa was sidelined for two seasons with a broken navicular bone in his foot. He eventually nicknamed himself “The Process” as he believed in Hinkie’s vision and the recovery from his injury was a separate process. Fast forward now, to another powerful regular season performance for Embiid, he averaged a career high 22.9 points per game, ranked No. 7 in the league with a career high of 11 rebounds per game, and was selected as the first NBA All-Star starter for the franchise since Allen Iverson during the 2009-10 season.
Embiid, Saric, Ben Simmons who is a contender for rookie of the year, JJ Reddick a veteran guard, and Robert Covington who is a solid forward on both ends of the court, bring eclectic assets to a versatile 76ers team. Marco Belinelli who is a NBA Champion adds a key level of experience to the squad. This young team has the Philly Phanatic-type energy and Brotherly Love-type chemistry to pose a threat to any team in the conference.
Reaching the playoffs is a win within itself. The question is, will Philly be ready to ring the Liberty Bell in celebration of another title?
In February, the Philadelphia Eagles won its first Super Bowl title– a euphoric experience where the city was resurrected from a title drought. For weeks fans paraded the town, natives yelled (and still yell) “Free Meek Mill” chants, and family members across six generations still pour tears of joy in disbelief that their city hoisted its first-ever Lombardi trophy.
The victory came years after the Eagles came so close, so many times. It was a moment that needed light immediately after an ill-mannered Chip Kelly coaching era.
Kelly traded the leading rusher in team history, LeSean McCoy, for an injured middle linebacker Kiki Alonso. He released wide receiver, DeSean Jackson, who was coming off a career best and Pro Bowl season, and he traded corner Brandon Boykin. Also, he basically let go of wide receiver, Jeremy Maclin, via free agency without signing him after a breakout season.
The running theme, here? Each player happened to be black, vocal leaders in their own merit, and at the prime in their careers. McCoy stated that Kelly is racist on several occasions. Many believe McCoy as Kelly decided to re-sign a white wide-receiver, Riley Cooper, after he was seen in a video shouting the N-word at a security guard at a concert. Whether or not race played a factor, Kelly essentially stripped away the heart of the Eagles offense.
For those who believe in karma, perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence that Kelly was hired as the San Francisco 49ers head coach the same season when former 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, began his protest against social injustices. Kelly, ironically didn’t think Kaepernick was ready to start as he was recovering from an injury and needed reps to learn Kelly’s offense. The 49ers had one of its worst seasons that year, and Kelly was once-again fired.
Despite the low seasons that still tug at the heart of Philly fans, there is less reason to complain because it eerily panned out into a Super Bowl victory– against the New England Patriots.
Glory came to another team in the surrounding Philadelphia area, Villanova University, where the Wildcats won their second NCAA men’s basketball title in three seasons.
When was the last time a city won a Super Bowl and NCAA basketball title in the same year? Never.
Philadelphia is the first city to hold both titles in the same year, yet the city has room to add another team to the declaration of winners. An NBA title may be a little ambitious this year but Embiid and the 76ers are ready to embark the next stage of the process– perhaps the Eastern Conference finals. They are ready to make an appearance and win that jawn.