The Philadelphia 76ers’ win on Thursday night proved to be a critical one on and off the court. As this young Sixers team continues to learn and grow, they played a well-executed game on the road against a very capable Cavaliers team with the age-defying LeBron James at the helm. In past games, Philly has a bothersome tendency towards losing leads late in the game after jumping out by double digits.
Once the third quarter rolls around, it all seems to go downhill for the Sixers. Missed shots, turnovers and bad passes notoriously plague this team in the second half. Thursday was a different story, however.
To start off, Philly came out of the gate on fire from three-point range hitting four of their first five thanks to J.J. Redick and Robert Covington. Cleveland also could not find an answer to covering star big man Joel Embiid who finished the night with 17 points and 14 rebounds.
It was a very impressive win for a team that is in the middle of a playoff push, currently holding the sixth seed at 33-27. After a tough loss to Miami on Tuesday, this was a nice bounce-back win for a team that has gone 8-2 since Feb 6.
From another perspective, however, Thursday’s win was just the tip of the iceberg.
A much bigger storyline was the center of attention as these two teams faced off in Quicken Loans Arena. LeBron James will hit the open market and test out free agency once this season comes to a close and summer rolls around.
Obviously, the entire basketball world will be wondering where he wants to finish his career. The usual suspects such as Los Angeles, New York or Houston always arise, since they’re big city markets where James could expand his brand, potentially win another title and ride off into the sunset. However, a popular destination that has been discussed by NBA minds recently is none other than Philadelphia.
Three weeks ago, this was nothing but a pipe dream for Sixers fans and analysts; nothing more than a fun discussion topic. However, to the surprise of many, including myself, the narrative of James taking his talents to South Philly has picked up considerable steam.
James already has a connection with Philly’s centerpiece, Ben Simmons, as they share the same agent and are close friends.
Then, reports came out during the All-Star break that James was visiting the Philadelphia area touring prep schools for his kids to attend. As rumors progressed, a Philadelphia-based company purchased three billboards in the heart of Cleveland, persuading James to take a trip down I-95 with messages like “Complete the Process.”
Just like that, James coming to Philadelphia went from a fantasy to a legitimate possibility. Now, if we truly look at this from an objective standpoint, there is little chance that the Sixers actually land “The King.” He may not even leave Cleveland.
But we are all susceptible to indulging ourselves, which Sixers fans have been doing frequently as they see visions of LeBron dribbling down the hardwood in a red, white and blue jersey.
It is very hard to think that James wouldn’t give Philadelphia a serious look. The Sixers have arguably the best young core in the Association and are well-built for future success. They continue to add depth and are capable of landing big name free agents such as three-point marksman J.J. Redick this previous off-season.
Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have become the best young duo in the NBA and both have potential that soars through the roof.
Philly also has yet to roll out their top draft pick, Markelle Fultz. Laying all of this out and examining what Philly has, it would be a favorable destination for any potential free agent.
Thursday night was more than an impressive road win. It was a sales pitch to one of the most influential names in professional sports. A showcase of what is waiting for LeBron James at Wells Fargo Center once July arrives. Philadelphia has shown impressive strides in its “Process.”
Two years ago they tallied 72 losses, the second worst in NBA history. Today, they are legitimate playoff contenders in a tough eastern conference. Philly has come a long way from the days of Sam Hinkie and accumulating draft picks.
As farcical as this may sound, LeBron James could be the missing piece and help complete this long and arduous journey and fulfill the overall goal: bringing a title back to the City of Brotherly Love for the first time since 1983.
It is whimsical to ponder the idea of the “Chosen One” hopping on the Sixers wagon, but Thursday night proved that it should be taken into serious consideration.
Connor Sodak is a fourth-year student majoring in communications and minoring in journalism. ✉ CS824220@wcupa.edu.