By now, the Sam Hinkie saga is one of the most documented NBA narratives in recent years. A narrative in which a general manager hired in 2013 intentionally nose dived a franchise into the depths of the NBA Oceans, in the hope that one day, they may just find the star that they lack. In the hope that one day, the Sixers would be restored to greatness. Looking back at the last few years will cause some fans to wince in pain, while others will simply stand up proud, hairs on edge and hand pressed against their chest, exclaiming “Trust the Process.”
It was a statement that was first uttered in completely ironic terms by fans. The Wells Fargo Center was seeing less and less home support, as names like Michael Carter Williams were cast from the franchise after winning a Rookie of The Year award. After the Sixers set sporting and NBA records for most consecutive losses, a 10-82 season just put the Cherry on the cake. When would it end? ANOTHER center? A city that had embraced the names of Allen Iverson, Dr J, and Wilt Chamberlin, was now forced to watch as their team strayed further from the path each and every night. But then one day, on that infamous episode of The Rights To Ricky Sanchez podcast..fans had something to view through an ironic lens. Something to soften the blow, and make this entire journey a little more tolerable.
“After a game, one of the 76ers players said that management had told him to just work hard and trust the process,”
That one quote would go on to define the Sixers. The drafting of Embiid that was followed by an injury, the struggles of Jahlil Okafor on and off the court, the strange personnel decisions, and overload of centers, what else could fans do except trust the process?
But then after a 10-page resignation letter from Hinkie, the Sixers were left at a crossroads. It was sort of like coming out of a relationship with the Love of your life, not knowing where to turn..but knowing if you don’t move, the last few years would have been worth nothing. You have to carry on, you just have to. So they did..and as luck would have it, the process unfolded.
The ping bong balls bounced in favor of the Sixers, landing them the chance to draft Ben Simmons, the transcending talent that the franchise had been begging to find. And then..when it looked like there might just be a dash of hope, the court was finally graced with the debut of Joel Embiid.
The Cameroonian center would take the NBA by storm in his rookie season. Embiid didn’t just put up good numbers for a rookie; he put up historically good numbers. His per 36 scoring not only led all rookies this season, but ranks 4th all-time among rookies just behind Wilt Chamberlain. He didn’t just produce offensively either. Averaging 3.5 blocks per 36 minutes, Embiid ranks 3rd all-time among rookie seasons, proving to be a defensive powerhouse as well.
There was one fateful game. The season opener against OKC. Where one fan felt enough passion and adrenaline building inside that he’d flip the bird to Russell Westbrook. Joel Embiid was simply BALLING..and the Wells Fargo was sent into an uproar. TRUST THE PROCESS, fans begin to shout. This wasn’t just a chant..this wasn’t a show of appreciation for a player. This was a movement. It was a unified belief that this was all worth it. Every tear shed, every loss endured, every setback swallowed..it all led to this.
Those chants would follow Embiid wherever he went. Through wins, through losses, through injury..the Sixers faithful would pack the stands to let that roar of emotion surge through their airways. Some of those fans had work at 7AM the next day. Some of those fans were battling personal problems, or had maybe just lost a job of their own. For them, trust the process wasn’t just a phrase used by a member of the Sixers management..it was a lifeline.
A lifeline that JoJo himself embraced. From sassy tweets, to instagram stories and a Campaign for Rookie of The Year, Embiid personified the phrase, Trust the process. From a troubled upbringing, to adversity in College and an NBA career that at times looked like it would never reach its full potential, Embiid himself used the slogan as motivation..and that in itself, has inspired many.
Life is full of setbacks. From professional life, to personal issues, health problems, and mental hurdles..and sometimes, it’s very hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel. But the one thing that connects Sixers fans more than anything, is that they were on this journey together. If they can weather the storm..just one more season..it will all be worth it. And now, the team is set to take the NBA by storm. With T.J McConnell, Dario Saric, and others who took this underdog mentality and barked so loud that all of Pennsylvania heard, fans saw themselves.
Last season, the Sixers faithful saw guys who simply wanted it. Who were tired of being pushed around. Tired of losing. Tired of being the laughing stock of the NBA. So they got up. They pushed themselves back onto center stage and they tried. Again..and again..and again until one day something clicked. One day, that buzzer beater would fall against the Knicks. One day, they sank the Timberwolves..and they became one of the hottest teams in the league.
What makes sport so great is that at times, you can live vicariously through teams. Whether you agree with Hinkie’s vision, disagree with the Colangelo’s, or simply just stuck with your team throughout because it’s what flows through your veins.. this is a Sixers team that defines Philadelphia. It’s not a mediocre roster anymore..it’s not a team without purpose, lingering, searching for a reason to push. It didn’t matter if they were down by 30, or down by 5, the Sixers never stopped pushing..and for fans who watch sports as a release from the pressures of everyday life, they saw a reason to go on.
If their favorite player, their favorite franchise can rise up from the dirt after being viciously thrown there by the rest of the NBA, then why can’t I? Why can’t I get that promotion I was told I wasn’t ready for? Why can’t I follow a dream that nobody else can see? Why can’t I make a life decision important to me that nobody else understands? What if I just trust the process?
In some ways, that’s how Philly Sports Network was started. As an at the time 19-year old living in the UK, nobody would care what I had to say. Friends wouldn’t understand what I was trying to do, or why I would dedicate every spare moment of my life to building it..and the people I was trying to reach, simply didn’t care. I was told I couldn’t do it..that I should stick to Soccer and just let it go. But three years later, the site has grown into something more than I could have ever asked for. There is still a long way to go..but I’ve never been so dedicated to anything, or so confident in the success of something. From the players we speak to, to the exclusives we publish, and the content we pour our hearts into..this is everything. And for me, if I didn’t trust the process, the site would have never made it past the first six months.
Now, I know that story in itself isn’t relatable for everyone. But whether you’re studying for a degree and feel overwhelmed, getting bullied at School and don’t feel as if you have anyone to turn to, going through a really tough time or have simply just suffered a setback. Hearing thousands of fans releasing those vices through those three simple words, “Trust the Process” was sometimes all it took to get you back up off the ground, and try again.
It may have been a phrase used among friends as a joke..or something used to ridicule the Sixers. But this fanbase isn’t one of bandwagoners. It isn’t one of plastic fans, or those who simply hop on for wins and off for losses. It’s the most dedicated group of fans in the NBA..and when you feel part of that, when you feel part of a movement that simply will never say die..you feel invincible.
Trust the process isn’t just a term thrown around loosely in Philadelphia, in fact many may not understand why the attachment to a former GM who ruined their roster is so important. But it is. And if you lived those seasons, if you whispered that motto to yourself on a Monday morning at 5AM, you understand. For the die-hard Sixers fans..basketball is everything..and if they can see themselves through those three simple words, the culture creates itself..and that relentless, never-give-up mentality only strengthens on and off the court.
Trust the process.
Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports