Process-Era Sixers Offseason Dramas, Ranked by Insanity
Forgive me if I missed something obvious; you can only keep so many of these bouncing around your head over the years before you have to run off and join the Juggalos.
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Never a great sign when it's 11:45 on a Friday night and all of a sudden you're seeing your entire Twitter timeline making vague references to Doc Rivers having done something unseemly and Joel Embiid being on Response Tweet Alert. Luckily for all of us, this time around, the reason was relatively benign -- Rivers had been hacked (or not) and liked a bunch of spammy porn tweets, making it an entirely laughing matter for just about everyone except for Doc (and perhaps Austin, depending). By the morning, the jokes had been gotten off, the tweets had been unliked, the hacks had been alleged -- and once those who actually had better things to do on a Friday night than analyze the social media patterns of a 60-year-old NBA head coach had all gotten up to speed, the cycle was basically already over.
Of course, Sixers fans are conditioned to expect much more out of a random offseason controversy: This one had the randomness and the comedy of our usual summer entertainment, but nowhere near the normal amount of tragedy. Still, the debates naturally started about where this ranks in the grand pantheon of Sixers Weirdness, and I was tagged in by Spike to address this particular question on INPWCATSR (still the ugliest acronym in human history) before he and Mike break it down on the Ricky. However I don't feel right grouping it with any regular-season scandalousness, which to me seems like an entirely different genre of Sixers drama: It's more accessible and relatable, but not nearly as farcical or unprecedented. Regular-season Sixers drama is like having a bad day at work because your boss said something mean to you. Off-season Sixers drama is having a bad day at work because your office was attacked by pirates.
So here we are: Process offseason nonsense ranked by general absurdity, not counting stuff like Okafor the speedster or Nerlens the bad tenant that we didn’t know anything about until regular season reporting. Forgive me if I missed something obvious; you can only keep so many of these bouncing around your head over the years before you have to run off and join the Juggalos.
8. Danny Green criticizes Sixers fans for booing (2021)
This one is mostly on here as a counter-example for our usual brand of offseason craziness, since it was about as rote and groan-worthy as player drama gets. Yes, shocking, Danny Green thought that Sixers fans should've been more sensitive in their dealings with the team following the (repeat) home collapse against the Atlanta Hawks -- particularly when it came to embattled All-Star Ben Simmons. "Protect us, encourage us, stand by us like we stand by you, regardless of wins and losses," Green pleaded. We are humans and people, too. We're not zoo animals where you can throw things or be on our side when it's convenient." I mean... sure, but.... whatever. You know how the song goes by now. This one got a couple days' worth of play on Twitter and talk radio and you probably haven't thought about it again until now.
7. Mike Scott gets in a fight with Eagles fans (2019)
This might've been higher on the list for the sheer wildness of the headlines and videos involved, but it's hard to consider it much of a controversy when basically every person on the planet sided with Mike Scott. Ol' Cashout came to the Linc wearing enemy colors (fine) got heckled by a bunch of Eagles fans (fine to a point), got called some racial slurs (emphatically not fine) and ultimately took up hands against a sea of kelly green (fine). Ultimately it just kinda confirmed Mike Scott's folk hero status with the Sixers -- something that hardly needed re-confirming after the Nets buzzer beater and the first handful of Hive events months earlier.
6. Doc Rivers likes some porny tweets (2022)
It was a fun hour or two, but the replay value was kidna limited -- particularly if (like me) you can't quite suspend disbelief enough to believe that the likes were driven out of sheer unbridled, caution-to-the-wind horniness. The Paul Hudrick "confirmed through a source..." tweet the next day was a classic, though, and if anyone has the gumption to ask Doc about it at a press availability this preseason, I could see this maybe climbing a spot or two higher.
5. The Ben Simmons photo (2021)
Consider this a stand-in for the entire Simmons saga of summer 2021, though it's an image that certainly deserves to be remembered on its own: Simmons standing to the side of Sixers practice, shooting daggers at the camera like he never shot them on the court, probably still seething about Doc Rivers not coming to visit him over the offseason (even though he completely ignored Doc's many requests to come visit him over the offseason), clearly intending to never wear.a Sixers jersey again. You couldn't say any of it was surprising with Simmons, exactly -- not after the five years we'd had with the guy -- but it definitely had a healthy quotient of "this only happens to us," which is as sure a hallmark of a true Sixers offseason drama as they come.
4. Zhaire Smith nearly dies (2018)
A near-fatal allergic reaction to a still-undiagnosed agent not even rating in the top three of this list pretty much tells you all you need to know about this franchise's summer madness. We didn't even know about the full scope of this one until well into the next regular season -- we knew something strange was going on, but mostly just that Zhaire was on the shelf for his rookie season and that the rare times when we saw him, there was a whole lot less of him than we remembered there being. But man, the GQ story that April that revealed what actually happened... the details are so much gnarlier than you probably recall. Like, too gnarly for me even to repeat here really. Like, so gnarly I now consider his 143-minute NBA career a resounding success because that's still infinity percent more minutes than I'd expect any human who went through something that gnarly to be able come back and play. Miss you, Zhaire. Sorry you were dealt to the franchise of the Cruel Summer.
3. J.J. Redick tells Mo Bamba a story on his podcast (2018)
Honestly I've always felt weird writing about or referencing this, because there's a lot we don't know about what actually happened, and because the whole situation seems way too fucked up to be mentioning alongside some of these significantly more trivial Sixers happenings. The one thing I feel comfortable saying about it in an NBA context is that I feel very bad for Mo Bamba that he had to react to this story in real time for a recorded podcast that would ultimately be listened to by thousands of people.
2. Burnergate (2018)
Certainly the most spectacular controversy in Sixers offseason history, the only one that triggered a 24-hour news cycle that lasted for weeks, that resulted in jobs lost and legacies tarnished and Jay Leno-worthy punchlines delivered. To many it will be laughable to have anything else on this list be No. 1 and that's understandable. But when you boil it down to the essentials of execs and their significant others being thin-skinned on Twitter... it feels plausible, at least. If it hadn't been Bryan Colangelo and Mrs. 91 on the Sixers, it could've been some other eccentrically collared exec and their overly-protective self-censoring spouse on another team.
1. Markelle Fultz forgets how to shoot (2017)
This one, however, was all us, and only us. No NBA franchise has ever made nearly so much of a cultural identity out of unlearning how to shoot, and even on a team that's also had Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz is the face of that franchise. For a couple of Summer League games he was Mr. Hesi Pull-Up Jimbo -- then he went down in the last one, video and rumors started circulating about a funkified jumper, and then we watched in horror during the first Sixers preseason game as he indeed looked like a middle-schooler poorly attempting to imitate the player we thought we'd drafted. Then the excuses, the injuries, the Drew Hanlen boasts... Fultz would still have a handful of nice moments in Philly, but he would never be normal again. If Boston had just stuck with him as the top pick, maybe he'd be Kyrie Irivng with good defense (and no Alex Jones reposts) by now. Instead, he's the ultimate Sixers summer cautionary tale. Maybe he didn't find the Doc stuff all that funny either.