The high water mark of the post-Allen Iverson era was a pair of Andre Iguodala free throws.
It was round one of the 2012 playoffs, a matchup between the top-seeded Chicago Bulls and your team, your town, your eighth seed. The Sixers had the worst record among all 16 playoff squads, going 35-31 in a lockout-shortened season.
The Bulls’ game one win also featured a season-ending ACL tear for point guard Derrick Rose, leaving us with a matchup between a lame duck team of role players and a lame duck team of role players. Philly got the job done in six and Iguodala jumped on the scorer’s table afterward to celebrate the Sixers first playoff win since 2003.
The Sixers lost the next series to the Celtics in seven games, and that would pretty much do it for the starting five of Iguodala, Jrue Holiday, Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, and Elton Brand.
There wasn’t a ton of hype surrounding those playoffs or the team itself, because, deep down, most people knew that squad wasn’t good enough to make a serious playoff run. Sam Hinkie also knew that, which is why we ended up with the “Process” in the first place.
But if you’re 16 years old, that was probably the most exciting Sixers season you’ve watched.
You weren’t yet born when Iverson lead a rag-tag group of complementary parts to the 2001 NBA Finals. Your introduction to Sixers fandom was probably the ten years that followed, the decade that brought us Willie Green, Kevin Ollie, Lou Williams, and zero playoff series wins. It was like watching the early days of the Process, but this time the team was actually trying to win.
If you’re 30 years old, you probably had an A.I. poster on your wall but weren’t alive for “Fo‘, Fo‘, Fo‘.” You would have been around nine years old when the 1995-96 team went 18-64 with a roster that included Shawn Bradley, Trevor Ruffin, and a mostly injured Derrick Coleman.
If you’re 40 years old, you were alive for the Sixers’ last title, but you were just a child. You spent your teenage years watching one of the worst eras of Philadelphia basketball, that stretch from 1986 to 1998 that featured just two playoff series wins. You probably remember the disappointing 1990 playoffs, when Charles Barkley and company went out 4-1 to Chicago in the second round.
You’d really have to be about age 50 (or older) to remember and/or truly enjoy the best days of Sixers basketball.
Someone born in 1967 would have spent their formative years watching Julius Erving and Maurice Cheeks and Moses Malone. They would have witnessed 15 playoff series wins from 1976 to 1983, living the glory days of those matchups against the Celtics and Lakers. Even the Knicks were decent back then.
The point is this: bad 76ers basketball is not exclusive to the Process era.
Many generations of Philadelphians watched some pretty crappy Sixers teams for longer stretches than what we’ve dealt with over the last four years. A lot of longtime fans took one foot off the bandwagon years before the spawning of this generational gap between Process supporters and sporting “puritans.”
The 21-year-old college student who had the foresight to support the Process watched bad basketball. The 35-year-old Millennial/Gen-X line straddler watched bad basketball. The 48-year-old father of three and occasional sports radio listener watched bad basketball. My 67-year-old dad watched bad basketball.
And while the schism really exists because of ideology and not impressionable moments, you get the sense that a portion of younger supporters would like to cordon off the bandwagon and define what it means to be a Sixers fan with some perversion of the idea that “if you’re not with us, you’re against us.”
That’s not to say that crotchety lecturing is any more acceptable:
“Son, I watched shitty Sixers basketball long before you were born.”
There’s really not much exclusivity to fandom, whether it’s sports, music, or whatever.
Sure, the guy from New Jersey who is a “huge Warriors fan” is a total poser, and the guy who loves Manchester City but has never been to England is probably another poser. Most people, however, don’t care if you saw Metallica on the “Ride the Lightning” tour or if you jumped on board when they cut their hair.
In 2017, that stuff only matters to a small population of internet types.
But in Philadelphia, the one thing we all have in common is that we’ve suffered enough as sports fans.
We all know about the Phillies’ spectacular fall from grace after the 2008 World Series.
The Eagles haven’t won a playoff game in almost ten years.
The Flyers are in some sort of half-rebuild purgatory.
And, last but not least, the Union haven’t won a playoff game in franchise history.
So, whether you agreed or disagreed with the Process should be ultimately irrelevant. All generations of Sixers fans have watched enough bad basketball to earn an automatic seat on the bandwagon.
We should all be excited to see a good team on the floor for the first time in a long time.