“Now this is the story all about how
My life got flipped, turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel Air”
Y’all can’t help but finish humming the rest of this joint, right?
These classic lyrics to the theme song of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air cross generations. Every kid who grew up in the ’90s watched this show and knows this jam by memory. Will Smith turned into a superstar right before our eyes.
Throughout the series’ six-year run, Smith’s eccentric personality was something that never really rubbed off well with his uncle, Philip Banks. He brought that West Philly realness to a family that was a cut above Bill Cosby‘s Huxtables. All his pranks and antics were comical but served as lessons for him as he later matured. His progression as a man was just as much of a reason to tune into the show as the jokes.
Likewise, Andrew Bynum‘s distinct demeanor often drew the ire of Phil Jackson and especially, Mike Brown. He came in as a goofy-lookin’ teenager from New Jersey to the old Rolls Royce of the league, the Los Angeles Lakers. Whether it was the elbow to J.J. Barea or the blatant three-point attempt on a semi-fastbreak versus the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers weren’t going to be tolerant to what others viewed as defiance. These incidents, though, are a mere footnote to an evolved Bynum.
Fittingly, Smith, as a minority owner, would be the one to take us back into time to remember the glory days. One of Philadelphia’s own should be behind the Sixers possible return to prominence, and it should take one all-time great to recognize the next.
Bynum’s move from L.A. to Philly is as big and promising as Smith’s original TV foray. While the basketball world is consumed by Dwight Howard going to the Lakers, the Sixers stealing Bynum has the same landscape-changing effect on the league. The Lakers may now be the favorites to win it all this year, but the Sixers have suddenly positioned themselves to wreak havoc as a contender for years to come.
It took some serious evaluation and guts from the Sixers to revamp their franchise. They barely scraped out a first round win (in six games) over the Rose-less Bulls before losing in seven games to the Celtics in the semis. It was the last straw for the crew led by Andre Iguodala. There was no way their defensive-minded, small-ball approach was going to work any longer. They had to get big.
Quite frankly, the Sixers were overdue for a serious makeover. They haven’t been relevant since Allen Iverson. And that was back in 2006. This past season’s playoff series triumph was the first time they got passed the first round in nearly a decade, and the post-Answer era has left them with nothing but questions.
They didn’t need a pint-sized superstar to get over the hump. They looked back deeper in their history to the last time they won the ‘ship. It featured one of the first, and best, prep-to-pros beasts: Moses Malone.
Malone is the basketball parallel to Will Smith’s Fresh Prince in all this.
He spent his first six seasons, made two All-NBA teams, and won a ring elsewhere before getting traded to the Sixers; Bynum was a Laker for five years, where he was named to one All-NBA selection, and won two titles. Malone’s breakout seasons came prior to his time in Philly, when he averaged 27.8 and 31.1 points a night, and led the league in rebounding twice with almost 15 boards a game. Meanwhile last season, Bynum had career highs in scoring (18.7 points a game), rebounding (11.8 a night), and finished third in field goal percentage (55.8). Their biggest nights – Malone’s 53 points on the San Diego Clippers or 21 offensive boards versus the Seattle SuperSonics … Bynum’s 21 points/22 boards against the Houston Rockets or his 30 boards on The Big Fundamental‘s Spurs – just showcased their talent.
Yet as great as these stat lines are, it’s the end result of Malone’s first year as a Sixer that Philly would love to have happen: a four-game Finals sweep of the Lakers.
In those Finals, Malone dominated Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He dropped 25.8 points and 18 boards per game, compared to The Captain’s 23.5 points and 7.5 rebounds. That kind of performance was routine during this championship run, when Malone spearheaded a 12-1 playoff record (second best all time) and a Finals MVP.
Now, would it too hard to envision Bynum doing the same work to Superman?
What’s more ridiculous is to dismiss the impact, and the possibility Bynum carries them to new heights.
“He’s not coming in to be a savior,” TNT’s Kenny Smith told the Los Angeles Times in late August.
Was The Jet f@%&in’ serious? That comment sounded like something Charles Barkley would say. Anyone who thinks Bynum isn’t a franchise-changer must be on something. He implicitly took a shot and diminished Bynum as a player. Cats who really know the game realize how valuable Bynum’s low-post game is, as well as his significance to Philadelphia.
Sixers fans are well-aware of their championship drought. Almost 30 years and counting. A.I.’s herculean 48-point onslaught over the Shaq and Kobe Lakers in Game 1 of the 2001 Finals is as old as Beanie Siegel‘s State Property. In a city that has a Dr. J statue and just hosted the East Coast version of Coachella, Made in America, they’re dying to be back in the hoops picture. According to ESPN’s Darren Rovell, the Sixers opened up the Bynum welcoming press conference to the fans, have doubled their season tickets, and the team even sent out personalized postcards in the shape of a sneaker. Can we get an “Amen” to this movement like Meek Mill‘s single on his upcoming album, Dreams & Nightmares?
A more reasonable basketball mind acknowledged and recognized Bynum’s stature.
“We (Doug Collins and Doc Rivers) were talking one night and he was talking about low-post centers and he said the only guy he really worries about is Andrew Bynum and I was about ready to choke,” Doug Collins mentioned to CSNPhilly.com‘s John Finger.
When arguably the best coach in the game, Doc Rivers, expresses that kind of validation, the league should be put on notice. Over the last few years, he reinvented the Boston Celtics to keep their window open. Now he’s scared shit from the threat the Sixers pose.
There are only a handful of players that change the entire dynamic of a team. The talent, skill-set, experience, and mind-set that Bynum adds to the Sixers is big-time.
Philly finally has someone to commands double teams. This aspect alone makes everybody on their roster better. They no longer will struggle scoring in the half-court because they have a legitimate go-to player. Opposing defenses’ scouting reports will focus on Bynum, first and foremost, and the other guys will gain open shots that wouldn’t normally be available.
Besides the shooters in Jason Richardson, Dorell Wright and Nick Young, the biggest beneficiaries of playing off of Bynum will be Jrue Holiday and Lavoy Allen.
Holiday hasn’t had a real chance to take the next step because he was surrounded by other ballhandlers like Lou Williams (also gone to Atlanta) and Iguodala. He now has the green light to be in attack mode and make the most aggressive play possible. Driving lanes and threes are going to be there, so there’s no excuse for him to not take advantage. The two-man game that he’ll develop with Bynum should excel, and Holiday could receive the coach’s vote and make his first All-Star Game as a result.
And Allen isn’t a name that most fans would immediately predict to be a major factor due to Bynum. He’s currently graded 232 overall in the league based on ESPN’s #NBArank Twitter campaign (Allen rose 268 spots after being placed last at 500 a year ago). This climb came while playing alongside an old, undersized Elton Brand and an inferior defender in Spencer Hawes. Expect Bynum to help Allen improve his 47 percent shooting clip. Allen’s role will look a lot like Udonis Haslem or a young A.C. Green.
Still, the biggest difference Andrew Bynum lends to the Sixers is the very same thing he gets scrutinized for: his attitude.
It’s laughable that the media and fans point to his “immaturity” as a detriment to the team. The best players always possess a certain mean streak. Kobe Bryant imparted that toughness and desire to get buckets in him. Bynum’s first game-winner on The Big Ticket was a coming-of-age moment. Doug Collins now has a cat that shares his fiery personality on the court, and for all the flak, Bynum’s outbursts are minor compared to someone like DeMarcus Cousins, while Howard acted like a female teenager throughout The Indecision.
This Halloween night marks the beginning of the Philadelphia 76ers revival. Andrew Bynum’s presence will feel like a remix of the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” He’s about to put his stamp on the East, and as for those who stand in his way, they’ll get tossed out like DJ Jazzy Jeff.
If Andrew Bynum is your best player, can you eventually win a championship?
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