Editor’s note: writer Tyler Tynes is a … let’s say, enthusiastic Philadelphia 76ers fan.
It was an electric Game 2 in the Wells Fargo Center. Mark Zumoff’s deep brown suit was unnecessarily gorgeous. Per usual, several “Trust the Process” chants pinged around the arena. The soul of Sam Hinkie could be seen moonwalking the hardwood as the Sixers attempted comeback after comeback against the Miami Heat, each plagued with poor shooting and a sin of the Eastern Conference playoffs: the necessary “Dwayne Wade ‘bout to beat that ass” game.
I’m not one of those fans who believed the Sixers were going to sweep anyone this early in the playoffs. For whatever dumb sports reason that could be uttered, I believe a team as talented and young and handsome as this one needed to lose early so they could prove to the imaginary and real haters that they could get knocked down then get back up. Please cue up any scenes from Creed.
Eventually the Sixers’ gas powered, three-point-surging flamethrowers were going to run out. Somebody was literally going to try to fight Ben Simmons for 48 minutes in a bump-and-run style where WWE was enforced for several runs by referees Tony Brothers and Scott Foster. Charles Barkley was bound to say something dumb, which he did during the halftime show by suggesting, essentially, that Simmons and crew weren’t prepared for this because he’s never faced adversity in basketball thanks to not playing in March Madness.
What I didn’t expect was this. I need you to look several times, as I did. It felt as if Mortal Kombat’s Raiden launched 8,000 lightning bolts into my being and engulfed my soul in flames.
Let this be said now and remembered at this point of history when Philadelphia has established that it will destroy anything within it’s nuclear cloud: the Sixers will beat the Heat in this series and Goran Dragic will have to get jumped.
You may believe Dragic’s actions are no big deal, that players do this often enough (see Chris Paul vs. Damian Lillard and a zillion other examples), that turning the other cheek is something one should do when met with blatant disrespect.
I am here to tell you that’s horseshit. Disrespect must be met with an aggression so hot it melts away any thought that piling on a meaningless layup once the game is over will ever be OK. There must be a response, and it will come in a way only Philly knows and enjoys: a hate-induced troll that will taunt the heavens and a fan base willing to remember this every time Dragic comes back to Broad Street.
The Sixers deserved to lose Game 2. They shot like shit. They were muscled out of the lane. The were missing a part of the tenacity and fluidness that made them the NBA’s hottest team this spring. Wade was tremendous. And, they really shot like shit.
But from this moment on, Dragic’s late-game layup should be a rallying cry. We know the Sixers have the tools to become the darlings of the East. From this moment on, they should play like they like the underdog motif the city has leaned into since September.
So, thank you, Dragic. We needed a mental steroid. Whatever comes next, I can’t tell you. I’ll only say: don’t take bum-ass layups at the end of games, or death might meet you at your door in the form of an army yelling Beanie Sigel lyrics.