So right off the bat, there are some differences. Were still in the middle of a global pandemic. I havent seen ONE car flag on my drive into work. And Pat Croce isnt bungee jumping off a water tower. But even with those obvious ones, it still feels a lot like 2001.
The year was 2001. The #1 movie in America was Bridget Jones Diary. Gas was about $1.50 a gallon (depending where you lived.) Joel Embiid was just 7 years old. And the Sixers were the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference after winning 56 games. In the first round the Sixers swept the Indiana Pacers. The same Pacers that had beaten them in the previous two seasons. In the second round they faced a Toronto Raptors team led by a future Hall of Famer in Vince Carter. It went down to the buzzer (literally) but the Sixers moved on to Milwaukee. The Bucks had a Big 3 before the term “Big 3” was even coined. Glen Robinson, Sam Cassell, and Ray Allen gave the Sixers fits. The series also went 7 games but ultimately it was the Sixers who had move on to the NBA Finals where they would face a juggernaut.
The Sixers faced a Lakers team that was so good they hadnt lost a game. They had dismantled the competition to the point where they had sat and waited to see who they would play for 10 days. They were heavily favored, and yet the Sixers shocked the world….in game 1.
That’s where we will end this trip down memory lane….
Fast forward 20 years and here we are!
The parallels are there. 20 years ago the Sixers had a charismatic star in Allen Iverson who was eventually named the MVP. This current Sixers team has Joel Embiid. The 01 Sixers had a defensive stopper in Dikembe Mutombo. He eventually won defensive player of the year. This iteration of the Sixers has Ben Simmons who is a candidate to win the same award. The 01 Sixers were led by a Hall of Fame coach in Larry Brown. These Sixers are led by a future Hall of Fame coach in Doc Rivers. Different, yet similar.
But the big difference is the supporting cast. The 2001 Sixers were the strongest supporting cast Allen Iverson ever had. A perfect blend to support the former #1 overall pick. This team isnt built to facilitate one player, but instead they are built to support each other. Embiid, Simmons, and Harris are the Sixers big three and they compliment each other very well. The 2001 Sixers didn’t have a big 3, more of a big 2 with Iverson and Mutombo.
But the excitement in the city is where the comparison really meets. The city is getting behind this team and the fans really think they can make a run. Role players like Dwight Howard have captivated the city like Aaron McKie did back in 2001. Young players like Tyrese Maxey have the fan base excited for the future like Jumaine Jones did in 2001.
So if you’re driving on 76 (likely stuck in traffic on 76) and the car next to you is bumping “Where the party at” by Jagged Edge, just enjoy the ride. Because it feels like 2001. Here’s hoping its a different result.