When Josh Harris bought the Sixers, everyone told him Philadelphia wasn’t a basketball town. Anyone that attended yesterday’s surreal Andrew Bynum press conference would beg to differ.
As Bynum strolled into the National Constitution Center, the atmosphere ranged somewhere between high school pep rally and Beatlemania. The Sixers’ dance squad and Flight Team were there. Fans chanted “An-Drew By-Num” and “Beat L.A.”
All that was missing was teenage girls crying at the mere sight of the 7-foot Sixers’ savior. Even Bynum, who has spent the last seven years doing some wild things in Los Angeles, seemed stunned by his reception.
“I actually have never seen anything like this,” he said. “It makes me super excited. Hopefully they can match my energy and keep me going.”
The Sixers’ fan base hasn’t been this energized since the Allen Iverson-led 2001 run to the finals. There was more energy inside the Constitution Center on a Wednesday in August than there was in the Wells Fargo Center at any point in the last 10 seasons. Bynum was joined by the team’s other acquisition, guard Jason Richardson.
“There’s more people at this press conference than were at the first game I played probably,” said Doug Collins, the Sixers’ No. 1 pick in 1973. “It meant a lot to ‘Drew and J-Rich to walk out here today, to this kind of reception from the Philadelphia fans.”
It’s yet another reason the Sixers emerged as perhaps the biggest winners in last week’s blockbuster four-team trade. By ridding themselves of fan scapegoat Andre Iguodala — and by adding the league’s second-best center — they changed their perception around the city in one fell swoop.
At one point, a fan yelled, “We love you Andrew!” With a wide smile, the big man said, “Thank you.”
Love is back in the air between professional basketball and Philadelphia.