76ers

The 10 weirdest Sixers moments of the last 10 years

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The 10 weirdest Sixers moments of the last 10 years

Extended stretches of normalcy have escaped the Sixers in recent years.

With that in mind, we decided to rank the 10 weirdest Sixers moments of the last decade. As you’ll see, we took some liberties with the definition of “moment” to try to best capture all the weirdness.

10. The tank-off
The players on the court often gave near-maximum effort, but the Sixers weren’t trying to win games between the 2013-14 and 2015-16 seasons. The unvarnished term for this strategy is tanking, of course, and the Sixers’ opponent in the 2014-15 season finale attempted to one-up them in that department.

Since a Heat win might have led to Miami owing the Sixers its draft pick, Michael Beasley, Henry Walker, James Ennis and Tyler Johnson all played the full 48 minutes. Zoran Dragic was spelled for 7:41 by Udonis Haslem.

The Sixers used just seven players — Jerami Grant, Henry Sims, Glenn Robinson III, JaKarr Sampson and Robert Covington were the starters, for those curious — and had the injured Joel Embiid draw up a play. He patted Hollis Thompson on the shoulder, pointed at a whiteboard and gave instructions as Brett Brown watched. This happened before he’d played in an NBA game. 

The Heat won 105-101, and it didn’t even matter because of results elsewhere. 

9. Embiid’s mask saga 
The Sixers had won seven straight games, were playing excellent basketball and led the Knicks by nine points on March 28, 2017. Then Markelle Fultz, in just his sixth professional game, collided with Embiid’s face. 

Embed suffered a concussion and an orbital fracture that required surgery. His team kept winning and Embiid sat and waited for the all-clear from the Sixers’ medical staff until, minutes after the Heat’s victory in Game 2 of the first round, he let the world know through his Instagram story that he was “F---ing sick and tired of being babied.” 

The big man returned for Game 3 in Miami, wearing a fancy black mask and goggles for protection, but the device got lobbed in the air, chucked to the floor and stepped on at one point by Miami’s Justise Winslow. After scoring 23 points and grabbing seven rebounds in a Sixers win, Embiid then boasted to reporters about the quantity of masks the team had in its arsenal. There were apparently “about 50 of them” on hand, just in case.

8. The wet floor game 
The Sixers had to postpone a regular-season game originally scheduled for Nov. 30, 2016 against the Kings because of moisture on the Wells Fargo Center floor.

How wet was the court? The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey gave a good demonstration.

In September of 2018, the team had to postpone its Blue-White scrimmage meant to take place at The Palestra, again because of moisture issues. 

7. Bynum's ill-fated bowling 
Andrew Bynum’s knees prevented him from ever playing a game for the Sixers. Acquired in a much-hyped four-team, 12-player trade that indirectly ushered in the Process era, Bynum experienced a bowling-related setback in November of 2012. 

The activity of bowling — “three steps (and roll),” as Bynum described it to reporters — sounds innocuous enough, but it “kind of broke off cartilage and it made the bone bruise bigger,” he said. 

6. Wroten gets an apology from MJ
Sneakers sometimes just decide to stop working, for whatever reason. Tony Wroten experienced this misfortune on March 14, 2014, when the sole of his Nike Air Jordan 10 gave way as he drove to the rim.

“Are you saying that Tony Wroten has no sole?” Marc Zumoff improvised on the broadcast

At the time a 20-year-old guard on a team deep into a 26-game losing streak, Wroten received an apology from Michael Jordan for the incident. Wroten told reporters Jordan called his agent to pass along the message.

5. NBA season suspended 
Following a Sixers home game, members of the media who wish to hear from Brown and a few players typically gather, wait for the head coach to emerge and place their recorders down in front of him when he takes a seat at the podium. On March 11, Brown was joined by general manager Elton Brand, and no players were made available. Instead of discussing the Sixers’ win over the Pistons, the two briefly addressed the breaking news that the NBA had suspended its season because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

While it was an unprecedented moment, we have four ranked above it … 

4. Okafor’s off-court drama 
Despite averaging 17.5 points per game, Jahlil Okafor had a very difficult rookie season.

In a story for CSN Philly, John Gonzalez reported Okafor unsuccessfully attempted to use a fake ID in October of 2015. Other details of Gonzalez’s reporting are certainly worth including:

Okafor and an acquaintance got into a disagreement with two men parked in a car near the corner of 2nd and Walnut Streets when Okafor tried to punch the driver through the open driver’s side window, according to a witness. The passenger then exited the car and pointed a gun at Okafor and an acquaintance before U.S. Park Rangers arrived on the scene and chased the gunman off, per the witness and both reports. The gunman was not apprehended, and the driver fled in a black Camaro with red stripes.

Okafor that year was also cited for reckless driving and speeding — Pompey reported he was pulled over for driving 108 mph — and involved in a fight outside a Boston night club. 

3. The rookie curse 
Nerlens Noel sat out the 2013-14 season as he recovered from a torn ACL. Embiid missed his first two seasons because of a broken navicular bone. Okafor’s rookie season ended early because of a torn meniscus. Ben Simmons suffered a Jones fracture in his right foot during training camp and missed the 2016-17 season. A perplexing shoulder issue sidelined Fultz from late October through March. Zhaire Smith fractured his foot in August and later had a severe allergic reaction and serious medical complications that caused him to lose about 35 pounds. Matisse Thybulle only missed eight of the Sixers’ first 65 games, but his rookie year is in limbo because of a global pandemic.

It’s still hard to believe all of the above is true. 

2. Fultz’s shoulder and jump shot 
The official diagnoses for Fultz during his time in Philadelphia were scapular muscle imbalance and thoracic outlet syndrome.

Fultz played 33 regular-season games with the Sixers. During that time, he pump faked a free throw — the ball slipped out of his hands, he claimed — became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double and made four three-pointers in the regular season. 

The consternation about Fultz was ceaseless and pervasive. How did his foul shooting look in practice? What motivated the No. 1 pick to change the form that had allowed him to shoot 41.3 percent from three-point range in college? Why was his agent recommending outside medical consultations? Was fluid injected into his shoulder or drained from it

1. Burnergate 
The president of basketball operations for an NBA team was linked with burner Twitter accounts that defended his reputation, revealed confidential medical information and fantasized about “knock[ing] some sense in [Embiid’s] head” with a “medium-sized ladder.”

A story by Ben Detrick for The Ringer sparked an independent investigation by the Sixers that concluded Bryan Colangelo’s wife, Barbara Bottini, was responsible for “establishing and operating the accounts.” Colangelo resigned and brought some degree of resolution to a deeply bizarre scandal. 

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Kobe Bryant's 7 best NBA moments in Philly

Kobe Bryant's 7 best NBA moments in Philly

We are paying tribute to a legend. 

NBC Sports Philadelphia will re-broadcast three of Kobe Bryant's landmark games Monday night — the 2008 Olympic gold medal game at 6 p.m., followed by Bryant's final game in Philadelphia at 8 p.m. and the 2012 Olympic gold medal game at 10:30 p.m. 

Bryant honed his Hall of Fame talents at Lower Merion High School and sharpened his skills and competitiveness in the Sonny Hill League and on playgrounds across the Delaware Valley. 

Bryant had his share of highs and lows as a professional in his hometown. 

He played 17 regular-season games in Philadelphia, finishing with a 7-10 record and a 22.8 scoring average. More importantly, he had a perfect 3-0 record in postseason games in Philadelphia, with all three wins coming in the Lakers' 4-1 series victory over the 76ers in the 2001 NBA Finals. Bryant averaged 25.7 points in those three games and captured the second of his five career NBA championships. 

Here's a look back at some of Bryant's most memorable moments in Philly. 

First NBA game in Philadelphia — Nov. 26, 1996
Bryant played his first professional game in his hometown as an 18-year old reserve, scoring 12 points in 21 minutes in a 100-88 Lakers win. He shot 4 of 10 from the field, 2 of 5 from three-point range and made both of his free throw attempts.  

Bryant's rookie counterpart Allen Iverson finished with 16 points on 6 of 27 shooting and 10 assists. Former Temple star Eddie Jones and Shaquille O'Neal each had a game-high 23 points for the Lakers. 

Bryant came off the bench in 65 of the 71 games he played as a rookie, averaging 7.6 points in 15.5 minutes per game. 

NBA Finals — June 2001
The Lakers and Sixers arrived in Philadelphia for Games 3, 4, 5 of the 2001 NBA Finals with the series even at one game apiece. The 22-year old Bryant famously proclaimed that he was coming to Philly to "cut their hearts out."

The Lakers went on to win the next three games in Philadelphia to secure their second straight NBA championship. 

Game 3 was the closest of the three games — the Lakers won 96-91 behind Bryant's 32 points. He had 19 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists in a 14-point win in Game 4 before closing out the series with 26 points, 12 rebounds and six assists in a 12-point win in Game 5. 

2002 All-Star Game MVP — Feb. 10, 2002
Bryant's "cut their hearts out" comment was still fresh in the minds of Sixers fans eight months later when the 2002 All-Star game was played in Philadelphia. Bryant was booed throughout the night, but he fed off the negative energy to score a game-high 31 points and win the first of his four career All-Star Game MVP awards. 

He was subsequently booed during the All-Star MVP presentation and admitted that his feelings were hurt by the frosty reception from his hometown crowd.  

Bryant averaged 25.2 points during that 2001-2002 season and led the Lakers to a third straight NBA championship. 

44-point outburst — Dec. 20, 2002 
Bryant's best game in Philadelphia came 10 months after that 2002 All-Star Game, when he posted 44 points and 10 assists in a 107-104 loss to the Sixers. He shot 16 of 35 from the field, 2 of 5 from three-point range and made all 10 of his free throw attempts. 

Iverson led the Sixers to victory with 32 points, nine steals and five assists. Keith Van Horn had a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds. 

The 2003 Lakers came up short in their quest for a fourth straight NBA title, losing to the Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals.

Snapping the streak — Dec. 21, 2007
Bryant and the Lakers got their first regular-season win in Philadelphia in nearly eight years, beating the Sixers 106-101 to snap a six-game losing streak at the formerly named Wachovia Center.

Bryant had 19 points in the win, but Andrew Bynum stole the show with 24 points and 11 rebounds. Andre Miller led the Sixers with 21 points and eight assists. 

The 2007-2008 season marked the first of three straight trips to the NBA Finals for Bryant and the Lakers. They would lose the 2008 Finals to the Celtics before beating the Magic in 2009 and winning a rematch with Boston in 2010. 

Last great performance in Philadelphia — Dec. 16, 2012
This was Bryant's last vintage performance in his hometown. The 34-year old Bryant had 34 points and six assists in a 111-98 win over the Sixers. Nick Young led the Sixers with 30 points, while Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes each scored 16 points. 

Bryant's 2012-2013 campaign ended with a torn Achilles tendon late in the 80th game of the regular season. The Kobe-less Lakers were swept by the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs. 

This turned out to be Bryant's last great season. He averaged 27.3 points, 6.0 assists and 5.6 rebounds to earn First Team All-NBA honors in his 17th NBA season. 

Final game in Philadelphia — Dec. 1, 2015
Bryant's last game in Philadelphia came nearly 14 years after he was booed during the 2002 All-Star Game. That proved to be plenty of time for old wounds to heal. He was showered with applause and tributes in his Philly farewell, and for a while it looked like he would deliver one final great performance in his hometown. 

Bryant opened the game by hitting 3 of his first 4 three-point attempts, whipping the Wells Fargo Center into a frenzy. But at 37 years old, Bryant eventually ran out of gas and finished 7 of 26 from the field in a 103-91 loss to a Sixers team that entered the game with an 0-18 record. 

Bryant scored 20 points and finished his 20th and final NBA season with a 17.6 scoring average.

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Sixers Talk podcast: Will Sixers have a chip on their shoulder if playoffs happen?

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Sixers Talk podcast: Will Sixers have a chip on their shoulder if playoffs happen?

On this edition, Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick discuss:

(2:12) — Questioning Joel Embiid's fitness is like beating a dead horse; will the Sixers have a chip on their shoulder?
(13:22) — Charles Barkley calls Moses Malone trade a disaster to his career.
(20:20) — Would the season being cancelled be worse than watching our most hated rival winning the Finals?

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