Today is the day when the Sixers‘ landscape changed forever. On August 12th, 2020, the Oklahoma City Thunder, led by Chris Paul, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Steven Adams, were playing a semi-meaningless game in the NBA bubble against the future Eastern Conference Champions.
The Miami Heat were leading the game in the final moments 115 to 113. OKC had already secured the fifth seed in the West, as had Miami in the East. This game was practically meaningless for the teams involved. But not for another team.
The Philadelphia 76ers had the rights to the Oklahoma City Thunder’s first-round pick that year unless it was in the top 20. If the Thunder lost, as it appeared that they would, the Thunder would keep their pick at exactly 20.
However, if the Thunder somehow pulled off a win in a game where they have significantly more incentive to lose, the Sixers would gain possession of the first-round pick at pick 21, something that had seemed unlikely at the beginning of the season.
Even more important to the legacy of this game was how Philadelphia landed this first-round pick. It was one of two picks acquired in a deal with the Orlando Magic that sent former first overall pick Markelle Fultz to Orlando. In return, the Sixers got this protected first and a second-round pick that was eventually used to trade up for another Washington player in Matisse Thybulle.
After the Markelle Fultz experience was highlighted by a single triple-double, a double clutch free throw brick, and an injury to Joel Embiid’s eye, the fans wanted something to come out of their suffering. Sixers fans’ prayers were answered by Thunder center Mike Muscala.
The former Sixer launched a shot from deep right in Chris Silva’s face, burying the triple with 5.2 seconds left on the clock. The Heat tried in vain to answer back, but the Basketball Gods had spoken, and Muscala had given the 76ers a first-round pick.
The Sixers then went on to use that pick on a freshman Kentucky point guard who averaged 14.0 points per game on 42.7% from the field and 29.2% from three. Fast forward two more years, and Tyrese Maxey is one of the best young players in the entire NBA and is already top 10 at the shooting guard position with an unknown ceiling, making leaps and bounds from his first to his second year.
Thanks to Muscala’s three-point shot, the Sixers have a face of the franchise for the post-Embiid-Harden era while still having a true shot at contention. Thank you, Mike Muscala.
If the Sixers win a championship with Maxey on the roster, Muscala should get an honorary ring for making one of the biggest shots in recent Sixers memory.