Philadelphia 76ers: Looking back at Burnergate one year later

(Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images) /

A look back at the Philadelphia 76ers’ biggest scandal in recent memory.

365 days.

That’s how long it’s been since Ben Detrick published an exposé of current Philadelphia 76ers general manager Bryan Colangelo on The Ringer, “The Curious Case of Bryan Colangelo and the Secret Twitter Account,” that set the basketball world on fire. Detrick’s article alleged via Twitter screenshots and evidence from within the Philadelphia 76ers organization that Bryan Colangelo was operating five burner Twitter accounts, which he used to tweet critiques of his own team and disclose private medical information.

On June 7, 2018, ten days after Detrick’s original article was published, Bryan Colangelo resigned from his position as general manager. After an investigation by the NBA and a third-party law firm, Colangelo’s wife Barbara Bottini finally confessed to owning the five mystery Twitter accounts. At the time, most Philadelphia 76ers fans were understandably infuriated by the incompetence of their front office.

Today, now that the Philadelphia 76ers have hired general manager Elton Brand and seem to be have a front office that isn’t a dumpster fire, it’s a lot easier to look back at the absurdity of the situation and laugh. One year later, here are some of the most incredible moments from Colangelo’s collapse.

The tweets

Some of Barbara Bottini’s tweets read less like insightful basketball analysis from the wife of a general manager and more like ramblings from a late-night WIP caller.

Bottini on how she thinks “mgnt,” or team management like her husband, should respond to a video of Joel Embiid dancing at a concert while rehabbing from his MCL injury:

Bottini takes a Brett Brown quote out of context and uses it to defend her husband Bryan Colangelo and slander former Philadelphia 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie:

Sometimes, she didn’t even pretend to hide her hatred for Hinkie. Remember, these are tweets from the wife of the man who ran the Philadelphia 76ers:

Bottini’s surviving tweets are all on the @AlVic40117560 account. All of her other tweets have since been deleted. However, perhaps the most famous of Bottini’s tweets before its deletion defended her husband’s wardrobe. In response to Twitter user @Philly_Asshole, who tweeted “This dude [Bryan Colangelo] just loves collars,” Bottini’s account @enoughunknownso1 responded with “That is a normal collar. Move on, find a new slant.”

Though the account and tweet have since been deleted, that famous reply will permanently be attached to the scandal. Many Philadelphia 76ers fans now refer to Colangelo’s firing as “Collargate.”

The reaction

Perhaps even more hilarious than how spectacularly stupid Colangelo and his wife were to run five burner Twitter accounts to trash talk their own team was the reaction — especially that of Joel Embiid. Almost immediately after the news initially broke, Embiid had a response:

Once Embiid learned a bit more about what Colangelo and Bottini had been doing — specifically, their slander of Embiid’s friend Sam Hinkie — he came up with a more personal response to Colangelo, which he tweeted at “Eric Jr,” one of the burner accounts.

The investigation

The NBA does not take allegations against its general managers lightly. The day after Detrick published his initial story, the league hired a third party to investigate the burner accounts and Colangelo. However, just as the initial story was broken not via formal investigation but via research on Twitter, the link between Barbara Bottini and the burner accounts was discovered by popular Philadelphia 76ers fan account @DidTheSixersWin.

Their conclusion wasn’t drawn via forced confessions or courtroom testimony; instead, the account discovered that the “Eric Jr.” account was linked to a phone number with the same final two digits as Barbara Bottini’s phone number.

Colangelo’s wife very quickly became the prime suspect accused of operating the burner accounts. The walls were closing in. A week after Bottini’s name was first linked to the accounts, she and Colangelo issued a public statement. Bottini, it was confirmed, ran the Twitter accounts; what she tweeted was often influenced by what her husband said. Bryan Colangelo stepped down as general manager. The saga was over.

The aftermath

Brett Brown stepped in as interim Philadelphia 76ers general manager, and a few months later the organization gave Elton Brand the permanent job. Brand as general manager orchestrated deals for Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris and constructed a team that looks poised for championship contention. The organization seems content to put Collargate in the rearview mirror and move on.

Thankfully, the sheer absurdity of Collargate and the pandemomium that engulfed Philadelphia 76ers fans and media for those nine days last year seems to be something that Sixers fans can finally look back and laugh at.

Next. Why 'The Process' was always worth it. dark

One thing is for sure: Bryan Colangelo, his incompetence, and his totally-normal-sized collars will live in Philadelphia 76ers legend for a very long time.