A Love Song to the 76ers

That was a lot of fun, you guys

I didn’t have high hopes for this season. Hell, who did? No stars on the team, attendance in the dumps, that sad, awful Iverson experiment, and a coach who started the year pale and shaky on his feet thanks to banging his head in a coffee shop. What I didn’t consider was that when you hit bottom, there really is nowhere to go but up.

At first, I couldn’t even watch the games. The players seemed so lost, so out of synch: 3 and 13? Were they ever going to win? That brutal stretch in November when they dropped five straight … all those overtime losses … the dustings by the Pacers, the Bucks, the Kings, the Timberwolves … Who were these guys, anyway?

It took some time for them to figure that out. But by the time they hit the .500 mark in February, they looked like—well, like winners. Elton Brand hadn’t played this well in years. Evan Turner, a dead ringer for a gazelle, had proven he could play with the top guns. So had Jrue Holiday. Andre kept on stepping up when needed. Thaddeus Young was an occasional revelation. Jody Meeks hit big threes. The whole bench contributed. And when the team was down, they didn’t sulk; they picked themselves up and got going again. My personal fave, Marreese Speights, wasn’t getting many minutes, but he cheered his hardest just the same. When it was all over, Collins himself pointed out: “We had nobody act out all season long.” When was the last time a Sixers coach could say that?

So here’s what I’m thinking now. Doug Collins: freakin’ coaching genius. Okay, okay, we need rebounding. And maturation. And to hit clutch shots. But just think of what lies ahead! Who would you rather watch next year—the Sixers, or the aging Lakers, with bullying Artest and curled-lip Kobe? Add up total years in the league for the Lakers’ roster, and you get 120. The Celtics? 124? The Sixers? Hey, it’s 76! That’s a lot of decades of difference. We’re in the right place to look to the future at last. Next season, I predict, will start out very differently.

So hey, guys? Thanks for the fun memories—especially the playoff win against the Heat.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go root against Kobe Bryant. Again.