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Winning Culture: A Philadelphia 76ers Christmas Carol Conclusion

 

This week, once again channeling the spirit of Charles Dickens in much the same way as the Narberth Dickens Festival, we present the conclusion of A 76ers Christmas Carol …

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Adam Silver stood in the empty gym transfixed as darkness and fog began to flow across the room like water. On the far side, a being wearing a long gray robe began to glide towards him. The hooded robe had white stars in a circle on the chest and blue and red trim. The closer the being got to him the colder the room felt.

After what felt like an eternity to Silver the being stopped several feet from him. He could not see a face beneath the hood, just darkness.

“Are you the last of the spirits that Jerry warned me of?” he asked. He could not keep the fear out of his voice. The previous ghosts had been beyond strange, but neither had been truly frightening. Even Jerry Colangelo’s shade had somehow not been as scary as the one before him now.

The ghost said nothing in response. It merely stood, the void beneath its hood seaming to stare at Silver.

“Well get on with it,” Silver said, using bluster to hide his fear, “I am ready to learn the lessons you would teach me.”

The ghost slowly raised one arm and pointed. Silver looked at the hand a moment. He had half expected a skeleton, but the hand looked human. He turned to where it was pointing and saw a door. It was the only thing he could see beyond the two of them. Darkness had covered the whole gym and now it felt as if they were standing in a void.

“After you?” Silver said. The ghost ignored him and stayed motionless pointing at the door. It was a wooden door that seemed attached to nothing. Light leaked in around the edges.

Silver swallowed hard and walked to the door. He put his hand on the handle and turned back to the spirit. It startled him to see it was directly behind him. He had not heard so much as a rustle of its robe. He turned back and twisted the handle and pulled the door open. Immediately light filled his senses, blinding him after being in the pitch black gym. He took a step through the door.

There was no bright flash this time. He felt briefly disoriented and then found himself in a hotel lounge. Two men were sitting in easy chairs chatting. The lighting was dim and it felt late in the evening. The windows were dark, and in the distance was the sound of a bar. Both men had grave expressions on their faces. They looked familiar to Silver, although he couldn’t place them. They both had the rumbled look that seemed unique to sports writers.

“It’s gonna get ugly tomorrow,” one said before taking a sip of his drink. Silver could smell the bottom shelf bourbon in the drink from where he stood across from them. Definitely basketball writers he thought to himself.

The other nodded in an exaggerated fashion to the statement, “Yeah. I think they’re going to dump him.”

“You think so?”

“For sure. I don’t see how they can avoid it. He’ll get some votes in his favor, but from asking around the swing vote is gonna be the Philly guys, and you know how they feel about him.”

“Yeah, but Harris started all that. Asked for help didn’t he?”

“That’s the story, but Harris doesn’t like being embarrassed and after the Colangelo stuff, and the draft pick stuff, and the lottery stuff, they just think he has it in for him.”

“To be fair, I think so too.”

“Yeah, seems pretty obvious. It’s a shame too. I wasn’t a big fan of all that, but hard to argue with the results Hinkie got.”

“For sure. Shame how it all worked out. If he’d left them alone, they really could have been something.”

From across the room a voice shouted, “What up guys, they’re convening to vote now.”

Both men groaned and got up, “No rest for the wicked I guess.”

“This isn’t going to be a vote, it’s going to be an execution.”

The two many began walking across the lounge and darkness began to pour in as it had in the gym. Silver watched as it engulfed the men and all the light and noise slowly disappeared.

When the room had become a void as the other had, Silver turned to the ghost and asked, “They were talking about me weren’t they spirit? Was I being removed? What happened?”

The ghost stood there silently.

Silver felt a shiver run down his spine. The gaze of this silent specter felt like judgment. He asked, “Is that all you have to show me?”

The ghost once again raised its arm and pointed. Silver looked and saw a new door had appeared. He walked over to it and opened it, quickly stepping through. Anything to get away from the ghost.

After the disorientation cleared, Silver looked around to find he was standing on a floor of an arena. It took him a moment to recognize it as at the Wells Fargo Center. The lights were on but no one was there. The floor was concrete beneath him, not the hardwood of the basketball court or the ice.

“What…what am I meant to see spirit?” Silver asked. He was unsure the lesson to be learned here.

The ghost raised his arm and pointed towards the ceiling. The long gray sleeve dropped down when it did so, revealing a human appearing arm.

Silver looked up and furrowed his brow initially. It took a moment, but when he saw it, his eyes went wide. The Flyers banners were there as normal, but the Sixers banners were gone. He began to look around in horror. Everywhere he looked he saw Flyers ephemera, but no trace of the Sixers.

“Where are the banners?”

The ghost didn’t answer.

“Spirit, show me where the banners are.” Silver was afraid now.

After what felt like an eternity the now familiar darkness began to fill the arena until it was gone. A door appeared, open this time. Silver ran over to it and bounded through.

It took a moment for his eyes to adjust once he was through. The lights were so bright after being in the darkened void. Once they did, he realized where they were.

“Las Vegas.”

The ghost said nothing.

“But spirit, I never wanted the team to move. Philadelphia is a great market, and it’s a great fan base. I wanted to help them and to get Hinkie to stop embarrassing me and the league. I think I understand now though. I think it makes sense.”

The ghost said nothing.

“The fans wanted Hinkie to do what he did. They wanted change. They weren’t embarrassed. Sure some of them were, but they understood. They wanted a winning team and Hinkie knew how to get it.”

He sighed deeply.

“But what of Markelle Fultz? Please ghost, tell me he at least is ok and playing basketball like he was meant to.”

There was no darkness rolling in this time. One second the lights of Las Vegas, and the next second featureless void. The now familiar door appeared before Silver, but he hesitated.

“Please spirit, I don’t know that I can bear it. Please just tell me that he is ok.”

The ghost pointed to the door.

“I don’t want to. I don’t want to know.”

The ghost somehow pointed harder and more forcefully. Silver could sense it’s anger.

Finally, he walked to the door and opened it. He looked back to the specter before he went through. It had not moved. It stood where it was, pointing. He swallowed and went through.

He found himself on another basketball court. It was in a small gym, with banners that said ‘Rosa Radom’ on them. Silver didn’t recognize the name but thought it sounded Polish. The room was empty except for a single figure standing at the three-point line looking up at the basket. The figure was wearing a jersey similar to the banners.

Silver could feel the ghost behind him and knew without turning that it wanted him to walk over to the person at the line. As he got closer, he realized it was Markelle Fultz. He looked older and more world-weary than the smiling happy-go-lucky kid that Silver met on draft night.

“Why is he just standing there ghost?”

Just after he said it Fultz brought the ball up to his chest as if he was reading a shot. He started to bring the ball up higher and stopped. Silver could see the look of pure concentration on his face. Fultz held the ball halfway up his chest for another moment for dropping it.

“The hell with it,” Fultz said, before ripping off his jersey and dropping it to the floor. He turned and walked directly towards Silver before passing through him as if he wasn’t there.

“Oh no, no no no, oh spirit, tell me this can be changed,” Silver said as he turned towards the ghost, “Tell me that I can change this outcome. He was such a good kid. He deserves so much more than this. Please tell me this future can be changed.”

The ghost said nothing.

“Answer me specter,” Silver shouted, “What is the point of showing me these horrible things if I can’t change them? I’ve learned my lesson. I understand.”

The ghost said nothing.

“Please, I’m begging you spirit. Please tell me what I must do in order to change this dread future.”

Finally, the ghost raised its hands to its hood and pulled it back. The face revealed of was that of none other than Sam Hinkie.

“Trust the Process.” spoke the ghost.

And then everything was darkness for Adam Silver.

 

Silver sat bolt upright in his head. A light was coming in through the window, but a soft morning light. He was drenched in sweat and breathing heavily.

“Trust the Process.” Silver said out loud to no one. The room was empty. He laughed.

“TRUST THE PROCESS!” He shouted gleefully and leapt out of bed running to the window and throwing it open. A young man was passing by on the street. Silver shouted down to him, “Hey kid, what day is it?”

“It’s Christmas day you friggin weirdo!” The kid called back up before picking up his pace.

“Christmas day!” repeated Silver happily, “Then I haven’t missed the games! The spirits visited me all in one night. Oh my, I have so much to do!”

He quickly got dressed and went to find his cellphone. Once he found it he looked at the time and saw it was only 7:00 am, plenty of time.

He dialed Mark Tatum’s number.

“Hello?” Answered a tired sounding deputy commissioner.

“MARK.” Silver said sternly.

“Adam? What’s going on?” Tatum replied.

“I need you to do something for me. And I’m sorry but you’re not going to like it.”

“Adam, my wife is already mad and my kids will be awake soon, what do you need?”

“I need to you to go to the Knicks game in my stead. Or skip it entirely, it’s Christmas, they’ll understand.”

“Wha….what?”

“I will be attending the Celtics vs Sixers games. I want you to stay here in New York and be with your family. In fact, take the whole week off, we’ll manage.”

“But…are you ok Adam?”

“I’m terrific Mark, better than I have been in a long time. Trust the Process.”

“Trust the….what?”

Silver hung up on him.

Once he was dressed he ran down to his computer and began to compose several emails.

The first was to the league’s Board of governors. It was marked as confidential and simply said, “Hello Gentleman, I think it is time that Sam Hinkie is giving a second chance. I know that I have been adamant in the past about his not being hired, but I was wrong and I think the time has come to let him see if he can work his magic again. This means you, Ted. Enjoy the games today!”

The second email was to his secretary to find the addresses of Spike Eskin and Mike Levin. He wanted to send them something to them to thank them for their passion.

The third was to Mike Webber, the screenwriter who had yelled at him. The league had gotten his information after the confrontation. Silver had been angry about it, but now he understood. He wanted to make peace with the man and have him at a league event.

He then called a car to take him to the airport to take the league jet to Boston. Once there he would make his peace with Brett and Elton, and most importantly he would talk to Fultz who was supposed to be with the team that day.

Finally, he understood what was happening in Philadelphia and knew that it was the right thing. The fans had been right. Hinkie had been right. He understood and from now on he would keep the process in his heart, all year round.

 

Trust the Process!

 

Jacob Jones-Goldstein has written about the Sixers for Roundballrev.com, loves statistics, and Trusts the Process. He dabbles in fiction, watches a lot of movies, and goes to more concerts than he should. 


 

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