Al Horford literally and figuratively answers the bell for Sixers


Who rings the ceremonial bell for the Sixers before big home games has become quite the hop topic among fans.

Sixers legends Julius Erving and Allen Iverson have done it numerous times which is why they likely didn’t do so on opening night. 

Other Philly athletes like a newly-signed Bryce Harper and a dog-masked Lane Johnson and Chris Long have done it — though didn’t seem like ideal choices for opening night given the state of their current teams. (How long until Joe Girardi gets his turn?)

Local celebrities like Meek Mill and M. Night Shyamalan have done it as well.

For Wednesday night’s season opener against the rival Celtics, the Sixers went outside the box to say the least.

Al Horford, going up against his former team for the first time since signing a four-year deal with the Sixers, did the honors.

“Yeah, that was awesome,” Tobias Harris said. “Did he know? He had to know something. But we didn’t know. We were in the back waiting for him and it was like, ‘Oh, he’s ringing the bell.’ I was like, ‘That’s pretty cool, that’s what’s up.’”

For the record, yes, Horford knew. It’s no simple thing. The Sixers had to make sure Horford was comfortable doing it. There are also special instructions the nightly bell ringer has to follow.

“They came up to me [Tuesday] with it and asked me and I said yeah and then I kind of got some instructions there before how to do it” Horford said. “It was a very cool moment. I really, really enjoyed it -- felt like it was special.”

Some may have seen it as “troll job” by the Sixers, but not Horford. He saw it as more of an initiation. 

He was asked an awful lot over the last few weeks how he felt about the matchup. When it was over, he acknowledged that there was a sense of relief in getting all the drama and emotions out of the way early.

He admitted that it wasn’t just another game, but said he felt like it was a good opportunity to cement himself as a 76er.

And that he did.

“It's still very weird to me,” Horford said. “It felt good to go out and get a win. It's just kind of it's finally over type thing. Just a lot of emotions leading up to this and everything so I'm just very happy to know that we came out, we competed, and we were able to get this first win.”

Horford showed in his first game how valuable he’s going to be to the Sixers’ championship hopes. When Joel Embiid needed a blow, the Sixers didn’t pay for it like they have in the past. When their All-Star center got in foul trouble in the fourth, they were lucky to have a five-time All-Star waiting in the wings – and veteran Kyle O’Quinn to give them four solid minutes when Horford picked up his fifth foul.

This is something that can’t be understated. GM Elton Brand admitted after the Toronto series that the backup center position was not addressed properly. Remember when Brett Brown was forced to trot out Greg Monroe, who’s now playing in Germany, in Game 7?

It was burned into Brand’s memory. The signings of Horford and O’Quinn will hopefully ensure something like that doesn’t happen again.

Even when playing next to Embiid, Horford’s impact is evident. It’s often not seen in a box score, but it’s felt by his teammates and opponents. He posted just 16 points (5 of 13) two rebounds and three assists Wednesday.

Both Horford's game and personality are understated. He doesn't need a ton of touches or to be in the spotlight off the floor. He’s a pro’s pro that goes about his business and likes to keep the focus on his team. He was happy to partake in the bell ringing ceremony for his new organization.

But by the end of the night, he was just happy to play basketball.

“You know, I was thinking about it a lot, because they asked me the day before and then I was like, ‘You know what? I'm not going to think about it anymore’ and just kind of focus on my routine and things like that. I went ahead and did it and it was good.”

Literally and figuratively, answering the bell.

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