The twisted tale of Philadelphia 76ers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo and a handful of seemingly linked Twitter accounts — used to both praise B.C. and, at times, rip some of his Sixers players — seems almost too bonkers to be true.
There’s no way a person in such a prominent and powerful position would use Twitter in such a shady and unprofessional way, right?
But then you go look at the Twitter account of the president of the United States and think again. Just because you’re in a powerful position doesn’t make you a Rhodes Scholar with unshakeable ethics.
As Kevin Garnett used to say, anything is possible.
That’s where this story seems to stand roughly 12 hours after it first broke.
So what do we know?
The Ringer’s Ben Detrick does a pretty fantastic job of laying out the facts that he established. The five accounts have interesting ties to things in Colangelo’s life, such as his son’s college basketball team and a love of normal collars.
But those details are far from a smoking gun. And Colangelo has only owned up to using the one account (@Phila1234567) in the statement he released to the Ringer. He also said he’s “not familiar” with the other accounts, “nor do I know who is behind them or what their motives may be in using them.”
And that could very well be true.
Who wouldn’t put it past some Sam Hinkie acolyte to figure out what Colangelo’s actual burner account was, then to subsequently spend months — years even — setting up a web of similar accounts, all in an effort to make the man who ousted the guy Sixers fans still call their “Once and Always Dark Lord” look like an awful person and unprofessional president? I’d put it in the realm of possibility.
Where things take the most curious of turns are the actions Detrick outlines that took place after he reached out to the Sixers about only two of the linked accounts.
That afternoon, within hours of the call, all three of the accounts I hadn’t discussed with the team switched from public to private, effectively taking them offline—including one (HonestAbe) that hadn’t been active since December. The Still Balling account, which had been tweeting daily, has not posted since the morning of the 22nd (I had already been following Still Balling with an anonymous account of my own, which allowed me to see activity after it went private). Since I contacted the Sixers, Still Balling has unfollowed 37 accounts with ties to Colangelo, including several of his son’s college basketball teammates, a former coach from his son’s high school, and an account that shares the same name as the agent Warren LeGarie, who has represented Colangelo in the past.
That, my friends, is some wild stuff.
This leads me to think there are three possibilities:
1. Colangelo really did operate all five accounts and isn’t being honest about it
2. Some people very close to Colangelo operated the other accounts
3. A third bonkers scenario that is so wild I haven’t figured it out just yet
So what does it all mean?
To this point in the story, it means there are some pretty wild theories. But what about people with even more information than the average egg, what do they think?
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski weighed in last night and basketball fans pretty much take his tweets as bible.
Maybe there’s an IT person who can prove it wasn’t Bryan Colangelo, but here’s one of his biggest problems in disputing Ringer story: Those tweets reflected not only private team biz, but launched personal beefs/jealousies/frustrations that he’s shared inside and outside 76ers.
Nevertheless, Colangelo is denying he is responsible for those tweets and many league executives seem to believe this: It is hard to fathom a GM risking his job in such a reckless manner. Many are giving him the benefit of doubt on that level alone. It just doesn’t add up.
If Woj is raising an eyebrow, we raise our collective eyebrow.
It’s also worth noting Joel Embiid’s response. Embiid was obviously criticized by at least one of the burner accounts. While Embiid mocked the burner account in a hilarious tweet that praised Hinkie and ripped Colangelo, he later added he didn’t believe all of this mess to be true.
“I talked to [Bryan Colangelo] and he said that he didn’t say that. He called me just to deny the story. Gotta believe him until proven otherwise. If true though, that would be really bad,” Embiid told ESPN.
A final tweet worth considering from Sixers beat writer Derek Bodner:
I will say this: when around a team every day, you hear a lot of details on background. Going through those alleged burner accounts, were a number of details I hadn't seen reported publicly until now. Have to think there's some connection, in some form, to steer the accounts.
Again, nothing definitive in any of this, but Woj, Embiid and Bodner are tuned-in basketball people with strong track records. It’s information worth considering.
Where do we go from here?
While Colangelo released a statement to The Ringer, the Sixers on Wednesday morning released a strong statement of their own, which highlights the serious nature of this issue:
“An online media outlet filed a story linking multiple social media accounts to 76ers President of Basketball Operations Bryan Colangelo. The allegations are serious and we have commenced an independent investigation into the matter. We will report the results of that investigation as soon as it is concluded.”
Seemingly, we wait for another Embiid-sized shoe to drop. But there are also some pretty gigantic offseason and organizational implications regardless of whether Colangelo is telling the truth or not.
If it is somehow proven that Colangelo really was behind these accounts, there’s no way the owners could allow him to continue to helm a team that he launched an anonymous misinformation campaign against some of its star players. He’d have to go.
And even if it’s never proven true, but not discredited entirely, the negative perception around the NBA will be tough to shake. This has been called the biggest offseason in Sixers history, with the potential to land one of the greatest NBA players of all-time. Talk about awful timing for a scandal. Would a star free agent want to come to a city with this sort of stench hovering over it? And even if the situation is dealt with swiftly, a new president would be thrown into an extremely tough situation with huge enormous consequences for an entire franchise.
But Tuesday night sure was wild on Twitter, wasn’t it?
Trust the independent investigation, I guess.