In sports, as in life, sometimes you need someone you can point your finger at and say “That’s the bad guy.” Well, the NBA just found their Tony Montana for the 2021-22 season. It has only been 2 games since James Harden has first donned a Sixers uniform, and it’s already become clear that the Sixers are going to be the villains of the league going forward. All that Philly has done since adding their new super star is outscore their two opponents by a combined 47 points, and unleash what Joel Embiid has already called an “unstoppable” pairing of otherworldly talents. Harden is averaging 28ppg, 14ast, and 9reb in those 2 games with Embiid adding 35.5, 3, and 9.5, but that stat line isn’t what is making the rest of the association livid. Plenty of teams in the NBA can beat you regularly, but only one team can beat teams the way the Sixers will.
This team is an absolute free throw machine, and everyone outside of Philly hates it. Over their first 2 games together, Embiid and Harden have combined for 59 free throw attempts (by the way, they’ve made 52 of them). There have already been tweets left and right about the Sixers being “free throw merchants” or claiming that Sixers gear is ref whistles and uniforms, and you can absolutely bet the house that those types of responses will continue as the Sixers free throw their way through the rest of the regular season. Now, as people who follow the Sixers religiously already know, this team is significantly better than just a foul-drawing machine. Joel Embiid is the best player on the planet, James Harden is only a couple of places behind him in that conversation, and Tyrese Maxey is one of the better young talents in the entirety of the league. If Tobias Harris can get out of the funk he has been in since Harden debuted, the Sixers will have a very strong claim to the most talented starting 5 in the NBA. But the fact that they irk opposing teams and fan bases by the way they win is going to make the rest of this season that much sweeter.
In 2017, the Eagles became a fun story because they were playing with a backup QB and ended up facing a detested dynasty. Sure, it was enjoyable to see other people around the country giving some extra backing to our team. That being said, I’ll take a hated team 10 times out of 10. There’s something more satisfying about knowing how upset it makes an opposing team and fan base when you slowly drain their chances of winning a game by what feels like a thousand paper cuts. The Sixers will have big plays too, which is what makes them such a talented team, but I can only imagine what it felt like for Knicks fans to watch Joel Embiid saunter to the free throw line for the 26th and 27th times yesterday afternoon. That would make me irate if it happened against the Sixers, and now Philly has 2 guys that will do that every single game. It’s the perfect storm of personality, play style, and talent. Will this season result in a championship for the Sixers? Well, only time will tell. But what we already know for sure is that every win this team notches the rest of the way will be detested by their opposition. There will be whining and griping all over social media, all over television, and throughout the country. People will be waiting for their downfall, and it will make the success that they can earn that much sweeter. In the movies, the story is built for the hero to prevail, and it is the job of the villain to draw ire and then fail. Well, this ain’t the movies folks. In this story, the villains have just as good of a chance to win as anybody. We’re just lucky that they’re on our side.