Philadelphia 76ers: A lovable team that people like to hate

Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons | Sixers (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons | Sixers (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia 76ers are no strangers to being targets of hate and disdain from fans. Sometimes it just happens. But it is rare that a team who has yet to accomplish anything can be so polarizing among basketball fans.

The Golden State Warriors are polarizing. They have won three titles in the last four years and seem to have assembled a near replica of the 1992 Dream Team. Except that team won gold medals, this team wins NBA championships.

LeBron James and wherever he goes is polarizing. His streak of eight straight finals has come to an end this season but he generates both love and hate.

As it pertains to sports, fans tend to hate the greats. Fans hate the ones who are “unfair” or “too good.” As a result, fans dramatically root for their failures or shortcomings. Fans want to knock them off their pedestals.

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This trend is not foreign to other fields. Let alone sports, it’s seen everywhere else.

Drake is often the most ridiculed music artist on social media. Just scroll through Twitter whenever he makes a headline and it will make sense. Of course, he is also one of the most commercially successful individual figures in the history of entertainment.

Do people just like being contrarians? Is hating popular things cool?

This idea of rooting against the greats is most emphasized in the oval office, no matter who is in office (perhaps this time around I should be careful about using the word “great”). It is the leader of the nation, the most powerful man in the world. Of course the president is polarizing. This is nothing new. Some people do not want America to fail, but they want it to be successful for reasons other than the president’s actions and policies.

All these examples have something in common. They are at the top of their field. They redefine “accomplishment,” “success,” and almost everyone else falls short in comparison of personal achievements. They set the bar at unrealistic heights.

And maybe that is the point. We hate things that we cannot relate to. We hate things that make us feel insecure about our own successes. We feel threatened. We envy that these figures do not understand what it is like to struggle the way we do.

But of course, how could they? When some of us live paycheck to paycheck, other people are creating Billboard Top 100 hits or boasting gold and diamond championship rings worth six figures.

I think my point is made. And I just took up 400 words to make it. But I want to relate all of this back to the Philadelphia 76ers.

For whatever reason, they seem to generate unfathomable hate from fans and it is not for any of the reasons I just explained.

When Joel Embiid talks about how great he sees himself, the fans create an uproar. “What an arrogant player!” the fans might say. “He is so full of himself, he is not even that good!” the fans might say, wrongly.

While they hate Embiid for being confident in his ability, which is dominant and rare, they love Giannis Antetokounmpo for the same reason. And I am all for it. I love that the Greek Freak looks at himself as the most dominant player in the league. Michael Jordan did. Kobe Bryant did. Shaquille O’Neal did. LeBron James and Kevin Durant both do.

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Why do we hate him? He came over as a teenager from Cameroon and has been nothing but a fun-loving, goofy character who finds ways to make everybody laugh. Have you seen his Twitter or listened to his interviews?

Ben Simmons gets unfathomable disdain from fans. For what? Because he has not developed a jump shot yet? He is in the second year of his career. He is barely an adult. I am only three months younger than Ben and you must be crazy if you think I see myself as a full on “adult” yet. I am still learning and growing, my skills are still developing. The only difference is his process is related to basketball and mine is not.

But why kill him for not having a jump shot? He is dominant at every other skill. A hypothetically existing Ben Simmons who has a reliable jumper is arguably the most dominant player in the entire league. If hating is just your thing, you should LOVE that he is absent of a jump shot. Not hate it. Trust me.

The other players, I do not understand. Tobias Harris is an under-the-radar player who had to jump several teams before he found his home. Nobody ever thought highly of him until this season. He was no Anthony Davis or Zion Williamson-type player coming out of college. He is a guy who had to put extra time and effort to become an effective player in this league. He is a blue-collar worker who is here because of his dedication.

J.J. Redick has just been a silent marksman in his career. He is not flashy and does not exist on social media. He comes to work and does his job effectively. T.J. McConnell is a small guy who never doubted himself. I only wish I had his heart so I could defeat such unfavorable odds. Boban… well, you better not hate him. Hating Boban says more about you than it does him. It is an unwritten rule.

If you want to say Jimmy Butler is the reason, I will LISTEN to the reasoning but will almost surely disagree. We can talk about the controversial situation in Minnesota but we need to look at it objectively.

I do not need to explain Jimmy Butler’s situation growing up. If you are such a basketball fan and love The Sixer Sense content that you have read this far, chances are you probably have an idea. To sum it up, he came from the bottom to build himself to where he is now. He is not the most talented or most skilled player. He has incredible passion and desire to be great. His work ethic goes unmatched. He was not supposed to be here. He was never supposed to be an all-star or a coveted trade asset. But he was.

Butler found himself in a situation in Minnesota where he was dealing with the antithesis. Several manifestations of it.

Andrew Wiggins was one of the most hyped college players in recent years. He is an incredible athlete who can out jump just about anybody in the league. People called him the Canadian Michael Jordan. He was the easy number one pick in the 2014 draft. Of course he won Rookie of the Year.

Karl-Anthony Towns was virtually the same story. A big man with guard skills who can shoot? Coming from Kentucky, where you can create a super team off their alumni alone? He was the easy number one pick in the 2015 draft. Of course he won Rookie of the Year.

It was the grinder Jimmy Butler with two young and inexperienced teammates who have probably never had to work hard to be the best player on any court they have ever stepped on prior to the NBA.

And I am not knocking them. I wish I was born with such incredible physical talent.

And I am not saying Jimmy Butler handled the situation the right way. But the idea that Jimmy is some drama queen who feeds off of publicized conflict is a misconstrued thought that better serves as a debate topic for morning debate shows rather than an a reality. He is a grinder who saw that his teammates lacked the heart and passion for winning and being great.

How are they doing without him? Wiggins is still super talented and Karl-Anthony Towns is becoming a superstar but both their reputations remain the same: they haven’t shown they have the fire.

And it is funny that nothing like that has happened with Jimmy in Philadelphia. Could it be that this team DOES have heart and passion?

So it took me another 900 words to explain why hating these players is ridiculous. It does not make any sense. I cannot seem to figure out the narrative.

At least when it comes to the Warriors, they have been dominant for four years now.

What have the Sixers done? They were the joke of the NBA for five seasons and are in only their third combined playoff series since 2012. Have not gotten past the second round since Iverson was the star and YouTube had not existed yet.

There is no pedestal to knock them from.

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Much like myself and others, they are working their way towards that point. They are overall a young and inexperienced team, at least their foundation is. I am a young and inexperienced individual.

And maybe that is why I relate to them so much. I am watching the plight of this team as they shoot for greatness. I sit here on the verge of finishing up the school year, one step closer to to my own greatness. At least I hope that is where I am headed.

I just fail to understand it. I cannot put my finger on what makes this team such a polarizing topic for fans and the media to discuss. I suppose it is the power of narratives.

When Ben Simmons was deemed a “coward” for not shooting anything outside the paint last postseason against the Celtics, it just stuck. Now it is almost a guarantee for likes on Twitter if you bring it up and have a few hundred followers.

I guess the idea of a 7-foot tall soccer player turned basketball player from Cameroon is not relatable enough.

Two guards who got here off of hustle and shooting is a turn off.

Maybe I never will understand why they are so hated. And who knows what the case will be if they do find a way to win a title or two.

People must hate the Sixers because of their “arrogance” which is really just confidence and charisma.

But one thing is for certain and I hope readers understand it.

The Philadelphia 76ers are bunch of guys looking for success that leaves them hungry and determined. They are holding each other to high standards while showing everyone they believe in themselves.

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Is that not exactly what you are doing in your own journey?