All week at NBC Sports Philadelphia, we're debating the biggest villains in Philly sports history. Today, we look at the Sixers. You can vote here.
The Sixers seemingly have a number of self-imposed sports villains, but this guy might take the cake. It has been remembered as the worst trade in Sixers history, and may rival any poor trade by the Eagles, Phillies or Flyers.
Of course, I am talking about Mr. Bowling himself, Andrew Bynum. Let me take you back to late at night on Aug. 9, 2012. The Eagles had just taken down the Steelers in their preseason opener and people were feeling good. I attended that game with my husband and not wanting the good times to end — why would you after a preseason win? — we met up with some co-workers at Xfinity Live, which is close to our offices inside the Wells Fargo Center. I remember it like it was yesterday. As soon as we started walking up the brick steps, passing the statue of Dr. J, our phones started to blow up. The Sixers had traded for All-Star center Andrew Bynum.
To say this news was met with joy is an understatement. By the time we reached the outside bar, the good news had started to spread to the rest of the patrons and staff. It was bordering on euphoria at that point. The Eagles had opened their preseason slate with a win and now the Sixers had a bona fide All-Star center to go with rising point guard Jrue Holiday. Our crew immediately asked the bartender for "Bynum shots." I couldn't tell you what was in them, but I can say that a number of people also wanted in on the Bynum celebration.
The next day, Friday, was the biggest fanfare for a trade I'd ever seen. I was working in the studio at Comcast SportsNet that day and was on set for the introductions. If you don't recall, just think of Apollo Creed coming out to James Brown's "Living in America" in Rocky IV (the greatest Rocky movie). Sure, Bynum wasn't dressed in American flag shorts and the Godfather of Soul wasn't playing in the background, but the scene at Independence Hall that day was almost that crazy.
The Sixers' front office rented out the historic building for the announcement of the trade and it was packed with sign-waving, cheering fans. Bynum wove his way through the crowd with Jason Richardson, the forgotten man in the trade at this point, trailing behind. It was surreal. But emotions and expectations were riding high. This would finally get the Sixers over that No. 7/8 seed hump. In doing so, they'd also traded away Andre Iguodala, Nikola Vucevic, and Moe Harkless, along with a first-round pick. But, you know: Bynum!
Now that we look back with a severely bitter taste in our mouths about the trade, it's important to note that Bynum was coming off the best year of his career. In 2011-2012, he started 60 games for the Lakers, averaging over 35 minutes. Bynum posted 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and 1.9 blocks a game. He was an All-Star. And he was on our team now. A steal at just $16.9 million for the single season.
But that was the double-edged sword no one saw coming. He was on our team and he was now our team's problem. What ensued with Bynum's tenure on the Sixers was nothing short of a circus that would also come to rival Creed's entrance to fight Ivan Drago.
Every other day, reports trickled out about Bynum's knee injury, and if he was indeed on the practice court. At the start of that season, the team announced that Bynum was rehabbing his knee injury. OK, a knee issue, no big deal, right? Wrong ... so, so wrong. Fast forward to mid-November and a few weeks into the season Bynum had yet to log a second on the court for the Sixers. He came out to say that he went bowling a few times during his knee rehab and had aggravated his knee issue.
Bowling. Injured his knee ... bowling.
Fans and media alike were incredulous. If he can injure his knee playing a sport where people regularly drink pitchers of beer, what would he do to himself on the basketball court? Thus began the saga. Every week, another report on Bynum's knee status. The only thing more reported on during his time here in Philadelphia than his knee was his hairstyle.
For me, the breaking point was March 1. Once again, it was a Friday and I was at work. Bynum said earlier in the season that he'd been told it was arthritis in his knee and he was missing cartilage, so that was the issue.
On this day, though, when Bynum addressed the media, I'll never forget what he said: "I think they are getting close with things to do for articular cartilage. They just grew cartilage in a Petri dish so I think science is looking at it. ... They're going to come up with something."
What? Sitting on set, I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Regrow cartilage. As if we are earthworms who can regenerate whole parts of our bodies. Vincent Van Gogh could’ve had another ear! No more nose jobs needed, just chop off your cartilage-filled nose and regrow it in a Petri dish. And no issue getting the tiny new cartilage from the dish into a knee.
That’s it. Philly was done. Cooked. No more. Bynum would have knee surgery and never play for the Sixers.
March 1 was the day Bynum, with his apparently aggressive, knee-shattering bowling technique, his Petri dish knee cartilage and his not-one-second-playing-basketball self became a villain.
Of course, this debacle of a trade precipitated the "Process" era. Which I guess ended up well enough. But lest we forget: up next on our tour, ladies and gentlemen, a fun 10-win season in 2015-16. Buckle up.
Oh. and the Eagles that year? They went 4-0 in the preseason. Only to go out and win four games total in the regular season, get Andy Reid fired and Chip Kelly hired. Thanks a lot, Andrew Bynum.
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