A Tribute to Furkan Korkmaz, Process Totem
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If you're despairing about the lack of Sixers action ahead while the preseason remains months away, the FIBA World Cup is still a couple weeks out and Daryl Morey and Lawrence Frank are currently playing ping-pong for the rights to Robert Covington, fret not: Furkan Korkmaz is about to be back in full effect. Furky from Turkey will be representing for his country -- on his home turf, no less -- this weekend as part of the upcoming FIBA Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament in Istanbul, suiting up alongside countrymen Alperen Šengün and Ömer Yurtseven in Group C against international powerhouses Bulgaria, Iceland and Ukraine. If they finish top two in that, then they win another mini-playoff against Group D's top two, then they'll get the chance to qualify for the olympics next year. (Hey, it's something -- I'm betting that third viewing of Everything But the Chip on NBA TV is proving less rewarding than the first two.)
And against all odds (and multiple trade requests), Furk will also still be repping for the Philadelphia 76ers in his international play -- as not only the team's second-longest-tenured player, but an increasingly vital totem of this entire Sixers era, and perhaps the closest thing Process Culture has to a Udonis Haslem.
A stunning seven years and five weeks after being drafted by Bryan Colangelo -- remember him? -- with the 26th overall pick in the first round, Korkmaz is still around, getting ready to lace up those size 27s for Season Eight in the red, white and blue. OK, maybe technically Season Seven -- as was established tradition for the Sixers of the mid-'10s, we didn't actually see any of Furkan the first year after he was drafted. But man, to potentially spend seven seasons as a Sixer? That's longer than Moses Malone, Clarence Weatherspoon or (chortle) Ben Simmons, and just one year away from matching Charles Barkley, Andre Iguodala and Doug Collins. He's ninth in franchise history in both three-pointers made and attempted. He's been a Sixer for longer than Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell and De'Aaron Fox have been in the NBA. I'm pretty sure SixersAdam's Bar Mitzvah was Furkan-themed.
It's perhaps most remarkable when you view Korkmaz's career in comparison with the other Sixer selected in the 20s of that 2016 draft, Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot. Since being drafted by Junior Colangelo that summer, TLC has been traded twice (to the Thunder, and then to the Bulls), signed and waived by both the Cavs and the Nets, re-signed by the Nets (first to multiple 10-day contracts, then to a multi-year deal), signed to free-agent deals by the Hawks and the Suns, waived by the Suns, gone overseas to Olimpia Milano of the LBA, and then moved to AVEL Basket of the LNB Pro A. And while Timothé has been racking up all these frequent flyer miles, Korkmaz has simply been chilling in Philly, learning up on Todd Rundgren's post-'70s material.
Not that his stasis has been for lack of trying, though. He's twice -- that we know about -- asked to be sent packing from Philly, first in 2018 (when he was not getting much playing time), then again just this year (when he was still not getting much playing time). And this points to the most unlikely thing about Korkmaz sticking in Philly while so many other Process-era pups have come and gone: He's never really locked down permanent minutes, spending nearly the entirety of his six seasons here on the very edge of the rotation, never more than an extended cold streak away from being parked on the bench in between Sam Cassell and Franklin. (The only season he more or less stayed in the mix for the entire time was, of course, the COVID-interrupted and Celtics-swept 2020 campaign.) He's been a more productive pro than TLC, but not, like, that much more productive -- not to the point where TLC should have had to play for nine different teams across three different countries while Furk has been kicking his feet up on a Broad Street bench, just watching the world go by.
This upcoming year won't likely be much different. Kork will start the season buried behind Tobias Harris, P.J. Tucker, Danuel House and (probably/hopefully) Paul Reed on the Sixers' forward depth chart -- not to mention whoever we might end up getting from L.A., once Morey and Frank decide that their very slow game of phone tag has been fun and all but it's time to actually figure out who's actually going to be on their respectively teams next year. He'll get some fill-in time when the wave of injuries hits, he'll play some second halves of back-to-backs, and he'll probably have at least one game where he scores 15 points in eight minutes, including a big one-handed dunk that earns a faint "FUR-KAN KORK-MAZ!" chant from the handful of fans at the WFC this year who aren't yet totally dead inside. But to start the year, at least, he'll he's not going to be much of an on-court factor.
He'll probably end it that way, too. But he'll end it as Sixer. I just don't think we can afford to lose Furkan at this point. Aside from being the only teammate of Joel Embiid's who gets his Jerryd Bayless and Barbara Bottini jokes, Korkmaz is too valuable as an emotional stabilizer for Sixers fans -- one of the only ones we have left, really. And he saves his best work for the summer: How great was it last month when those smoldering IG photos of a sunglassed Furk looking at his cell phone hit the internet? Didn't it bring back fond offseason memories of the Furkan hype video, the Furkan Darth Vader mask dunk, the Furkan EuroBasket brawl? I don't know we would've been able to keep coming up from these brutal end-of-season heartbreaks without the levity he's consistently brought us from June to September.
The rest of the year? Well, there's something to be said for some degree of consistency, isn't there? This team has gone through a Melrose Place level of cast changes over the past seven years -- on the court, on the bench and even in the executive suite -- but through it all have been Jo and Furk, our lone remaining untouched planks on the Ship of Theseus. It's probably at least a little laughable to compare it to Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem on the Heat for all those years, but I do think there is something to be said for keeping one star player and one (mostly) good sport around across the years, through fat and lean times. It's an anchor, a tethering, a reminder that putting on the Sixers jersey is at least slightly more meaningful than wearing someone else's laundry. It's a way for them (and us) to feel like where they are hasn't become completely disconnected from where they started.
And at this point, it's pretty much gotta stay this way. As long as Jo is here, Furk's gotta be there with him. Maybe he can't serve as the enforcer type and cultural arbiter that Haslem has assumed the duties of over his two decades in Miami -- though it would certainly be amusing if he tried -- but that's not really the Process Way anyway. He can keep being alternately spellbinding and frustrating, perpetually on the verge of falling out completely, silly and sulky and inspired and always keeping at least one eye on the door. That's most of us, too -- but we're not getting out anytime soon. Hopefully neither is Furkan.