The Light Blinds All: An Elegy for the Philadelphia 76ers

I’m not what you’d call a fan of the 76ers. Cavaliers man, I am. But there’s a certain kinship that grows between people trapped in the same wasteland, and so many years ago, I connected with the team who shares the record for the longest single-season losing streak with my own. And even after LeBron James scooped the Cavaliers from that poisoned garden, I never forgot the infinite promise of the Sixers’ post-Process future, or the effervescent smile of its first child.

But the light blinds all who see it, which brings us here: The Philadelphia 76ers are gone, swept away by a tempest of green and white, taken their place among the NBA’s departed. (and in the case of Brett Brown’s accent, Martin Scorsese’s Departed). For as long as we’ve known these Sixers, they were defined by their boundless potential. But now, as we’re forced to say a far-too-early goodbye, it’s hard to feel anything but lament.

Even as barren Sixers rosters filled with basketball nomads were getting carpet bombed by the rest of the Association, we found hope in treasure troves of draft picks and cap space, knowing they could turn into anything—and boy, did they ever. The Sixers’ pair of prodigies, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, rewarded dedicated Processors for their faith and helped steward the team to great heights: winning streaks, playoff berths, and more quality memes than most teams generate in a lifetime.

But the Sixers never got to revel in the ass-smacking, Jordan-evoking days of their youth. A power-hungry regime sacrificed many of the white- and blue-collar team members who helped build its wealth and installed new decision-makers—first, the extremely normal-collared Bryan Colangelo, then Elton “Chief Beef” Brand—hoping to conquer the NBA with great haste and vigor. Instead, top draft picks became negative assets, oodles of cap space turned into dead money, and now, the very gifts that should’ve allowed the Sixers to fly have instead chained them to the ground.

The Philadelphia 76ers’ flame burned fast and bright—too much so for its own good, it appears. Of course, in the NBA, death is not permanent. This autumn, the winds of change will gust through Philadelphia, just as they always do—it’s just that this time, all the Sixers can do is hope it’s enough to douse the grease fires burning throughout the Wells Fargo Center.

I’d like to end with a short haiku; I’ve been playing lots of Ghost of Tsushima (if you spoil it for me I’ll be writing your eulogy next) and have caught quite the literary fever. If you would indulge, this is titled “The Sins of Brand”:

Dark clouds rolling in

guided by two albatross

heralding twilight.

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