Clap Your Hands Everybody for Philadelphia 76ers

11 May

Forward:  For those of you expecting another story about the Phillies, this post is not for you.  But read it anyway.  It’s about that other team I root for that I’ve written about before,  a team that actually defied the odds with a nail-biting, down to the wire, dramatic win last night.  It’s an underdog story that has all the things I love:  emotion, drama and, of course, redemption. 

  ♠          ♠          ♠          ♠          ♠

He’s had his share of ups and downs in this city; to keep it real there were more downs than ups.  The City of Brotherly Love belied its name when it came to its support, or lack of, for the 76ers Andre Iguodala.  From the day in 2008 that he signed his big $80 million contract, Iguodala  has had a target on his back.  There were expectations placed on this young man that even his large muscular shoulders could not handle.  It is possible that no one’s could.

Quite simply, through no real fault of his own, he was miscast.  The fans in this basketball-starved city expected him to replace their beloved  superstar, Allen Iverson.   A small man, literally, but he left behind large shoes that perhaps, no one could fill.

Now that Iguodala was making the big money, he should be the team’s big scorer, right?  But that just isn’t the kind of player Dre was meant to be.  That’s just not his game.  He does a little bit of everything.  Fills out a score sheet as some would say derisively.  As if defense, rebounds, assists and steals not to mention providing a steady leadership presence among a team of youngsters doesn’t really matter.

But perhaps the biggest reason Andre Iguodala has at times frustrated the Philly fans is his seeming inability to come through in the clutch, to hit that last second game winning shot.  Add to that his legendary struggles hitting free throws, particularly this season, especially in the fourth quarter.

Iguodala shot 23 for 51 from the line during the final quarter this season, which is not good at any level of basketball.  In fact, in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter,  he was just a 33 percent (6 for 18) shooter from the line. Needless to say, in clutch situations at the end of a tight game, anyone else in a uniform would seem like a better option.

So who stood at the foul line last night with 2.2 seconds remaining in this possible series clinching game against the 1 seed Chicago Bulls?  Yep, you guessed it. As Sixers coach Doug Collins would say later, “I don’t know how you could write a better script.” 

There are some athletes who might have shied away from this challenge, who would have wanted no part of having the ball in their hands in this moment, thinking that anyone would have a better chance of bringing this biggest of big games home.  Perhaps, a mentally weaker athlete  just wouldn’t have wanted to take the chance knowing that if he missed the shot, or the free throws that might follow, he would have to live with the specter of that moment for the rest of his career.

But when his moment arrived, Iguodala did not hesitate. There wasn’t time. When Chicago’s Omar Asik missed the second of his two foul shots that could have iced the game for his Bulls, Andre grabbed for the rebound, and with the final seconds ticking away on the game and his team’s season, he raced down the court throwing his body at the basket knowing that he either had to score or get fouled in the process to keep the Sixers season alive. And, of course, as this script would dictate, get fouled he did.

All that stood between the 76ers getting to round 2 of the playoffs for the first time since 2003 was Andre Iguodala sinking 2 foul shots, the shots that had haunted him all year. So in front of a screaming crowd, all on their feet, with the game, the series, the season on the line, Andre Iguodala, the oft-maligned Sixers $80 million dollar man, stepped to the line.

He would be a hero or a goat on this night. There would be nothing in between, no flying under the radar on this one.

Iguodala sunk the first shot, nothing but net. He stood trying to keep his composure during a player substitution as everything around him was going wild. The crowd noise increased if that was even possible. Who knows what must have been going through his mind as he prepared to launch that second shot?

The ball left his hands, the crowd of 20,362 collectively held their breath.

“[teammate] Tony Batite gave me some advice,” Iguodala said after the game. “He said, “think of something you love when you’re shooting free throws, ‘because I’ve been struggling all year. I thought of my son, and it was easy after that.”

Swish. Nothing but net. Game over.

On this night, the Sixers won their play-off series against the Chicago Bulls, 4 games to 2.

On this night, they became only the fifth number 8 seed to defeat a number 1.

On this night, almost four years after he signed the big contract that started it all, Andre Iguodala faced his moment of truth.

And on this night, this AI was finally the Answer.

**By the way, extra credit for anyone who can tell me why I used an ace of spades as my transition graphic at the top of this post.  Anyone???**

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10 Responses to “Clap Your Hands Everybody for Philadelphia 76ers”

  1. Rodd Bender May 11, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    Coach Collins gives an “ace of spades” award to a deserving player after every Sixers win. (Admission – had to look that one up!) ‘Dre certainly earned one last night.

    • girlsbestphriend May 11, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

      Wow! You’re fast. And honest 🙂 Gotta love Coach Collins!

  2. Ray May 11, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

    At least the Sixers showed what they needed to in the last two minutes of the game. The Flyers looked so very lost, in over their head in the Devils series after playing such a good series vs the Penguins..big sigh….lol

    • girlsbestphriend May 11, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

      I know. Maybe the Phillies can remember what heart is after watching the Sixers.

  3. Spencer May 11, 2012 at 2:08 pm #

    Ssssiiixxxeeerrrsss all the wayyy!!! Spectacular post mommy

    • girlsbestphriend May 11, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

      And your comment just made my day!!! xo

      • Nat May 11, 2012 at 2:21 pm #

        (awe, so cute!)

  4. geetie cohen May 11, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    I follow the Sixers just enough to be able to talk to my grandson ,who is a big fan, a bit.Last night I tuned in for those two shots. What a happy accident. WOW !

  5. Fern Zeigler May 12, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    ok, I’m 59 years old, a rebel as a young person, a free-thinker as an old one, but when my mother tells me I must read Susan’s blog, well then there’s no getting out of it.
    Susan, we are in awe.

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