There are very few, if any, better sports cities in the United States than the city of Philadelphia. However, for whatever reason, Philadelphians don’t show the same passion for the Sixers as they have for the city’s other three teams. While the Phillies, Eagles, and Flyers play just about every game behind a raucous sellout crowd, the Sixers have consistently had trouble filling seats since the departure of Allen Iverson, even though they have continued to make the playoffs on a pretty consistent basis.
Then, in 2012, everything changed.
Before the season got underway, a new ownership group came into town to take over the 76ers, which created a slight buzz about Sixers basketball in the City of Brotherly Love. However, the 149-day NBA lockout wiped away any momentum the new owners were harvesting amongst the Philadelphia fan base, and they had to start all over again.
The new management team proceeded to dramatically slash ticket prices, and they branded the team in a new way by linking the franchise to its storied past, reminding fans that the Sixers have “the third-most wins and third-most playoff appearances in NBA history.”
The marketing strategies didn’t make an immediate impact, as attendance numbers were dismal in the first month of the season. However, as the Sixers got out to a red hot 20-9 start, fans started to take notice, and the seats in the Wells Fargo Center began to fill up. Pretty soon, crowds of 18,000+ were becoming the norm. After finishing in the bottom eight in the NBA in attendance for five straight years, the Sixers climbed into the top half of the league by averaging 17,500 fans per game in the 2012 regular season.
Then, the playoffs happened. The Sixers took advantage of injuries to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah and knocked off the top-seeded Chicago Bulls in six games. Having won their first playoff series in nine years, for the first time in quite a while, the Sixers had truly gained relevance in the Philadelphia sports world.
Next, Doug Collins’ squad took the heavily-favored Boston Celtics to a seventh game before falling short in the second round of the playoffs. Nonetheless, the Sixers finished the 2012 Playoffs with a 5-1 home record, and fans were proudly walking around town sporting their red, white, and blue “Passionate. Intense. Proud.” Sixers T-shirts, brimming with excitement for the future of this young team.
This past summer, the momentum that the Sixers had mustered with their fan base reached a fever pitch when they made a huge splash by acquiring 24-year-old center Andrew Bynum. Bynum was welcomed with open arms in Philadelphia as fans packed the National Constitution Center to cheer him on at his introductory press conference. He was even given the keys to the city.
Suddenly, the only thing that Philadelphia sports fans wanted to talk about was the 76ers. How Bynum was the second-best center in the NBA. How this trade made the Sixers the second-best team in the Eastern Conference. How the Miami Heat were aging, and in a few years, hey, who knows, maybe the Sixers can contend for an NBA championship.
All of this happened almost exactly seven months ago. How quickly things can change.
The anticipation for the Sixers home opener on Halloween was enormous, as Andrew Bynum was expected to make his Sixers debut on the same night that Andre Iguodala was to make his return to Philadelphia. However, only one of the above events actually transpired, as Bynum remained sidelined with his injured right knee.
Sixers fans weren’t too worried though. Surely, their star center would be back in no time.
Then, a few weeks later, the news came out that Bynum would be out until January at the earliest. A few days later, the public was informed that part of the setback was due to a left knee injury that Bynum had suffered while bowling.
Sixers fans were disappointed, but they remained hopeful. Surely, their star center would be back soon enough, and the Sixers would reach their peak right in time for the playoffs.
Flash forward to the present. It’s March 9, 2013, and there’s only two things that we’re sure about. The Sixers won’t make the playoffs this season, and Andrew Bynum won’t play in a single game.
When the Sixers acquired Andrew Bynum back in August, they lost much more than Andre Iguodala, Nik Vucevic, Moe Harkless, a future first-round draft pick, and 16 million dollars.
They lost the fan support that they had worked so hard to earn back.
After falling to the Miami Heat on Friday night, the Sixers dropped their 11th game in their past 12 tries and are now 23-38 on the season. The eighth-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, who not too long ago felt the Sixers creeping up behind them for the last playoff spot, are now nothing more than a distant speck in the horizon.
A little more than nine months ago, the Sixers were a win away from the Eastern Conference Finals. Coming into the 2012-13 season, the city of Philadelphia’s excitement level for Sixers basketball was at its highest level since the 76ers made their run to the NBA Finals in 2001.
However, as the Bynum disaster has unfolded, the excitement for this season has been slowly let out of the balloon until there is now nothing left. It’s even come down to the point where many disgruntled fans want their team to tank in order to secure a better first-round draft pick.
What a difference a year can make.
Thanks to a boatload of ticket sales before the season started, the Sixers’ attendance numbers have at least stayed afloat, but they are averaging one thousand fewer fans per game than they did a season ago.
It’s no secret that the Sixers are struggling to sell tickets, as they recently scrambled to add three bobblehead nights to their promotional schedule. However, rather than giving out bobbleheads of players on the current Sixers team, they are instead attempting to conjure memories of the Sixers’ glory days by handing fans bobbleheads of franchise greats like Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, and Allen Iverson.
These giveaways may have fans smiling as they walk in the door, but with Bynum continuing to dress in a suit instead of a uniform, and with the Sixers continuing to end up on the wrong end of the scoreboard, those fans’ grins have long since faded away by the time they dejectedly exit the Wells Fargo Center.
Now that all of high hopes for the 2012-13 season have dissipated, all eyes are turning to the difficult decision that the Sixers will have to make in the offseason. They can risk bringing back Bynum in hopes that he can regain his health and his All-Star form, or they can move in a different direction and sign a player like Josh Smith, Al Jefferson, or Paul Millsap. However, no matter which route they choose, the Sixers won’t receive anything close to the hype they received a summer ago.
If the Sixers want to be the talk of the town again like they were last May, there’s only one way to do it. Free agent signings, bobbleheads, and even a potential new mascot won’t be enough.
They need to get back to winning.
The only good news for Sixers fans in what has been a very difficult season to watch is that there are great deals to be had on tickets. The best place to go to search for cheap Sixers tickets is Whiztix.com.
Whiztix, a ticket-comparison site, puts together all of the listings from multiple ticket-selling websites, helping fans find the best deals on tickets for any game they wish to attend. Sixers fans can check out Whiztix, which is free-to-use, for an opportunity to purchase tickets well below face value.
Bradford Conners is a student at Penn State University and a writing intern for Whiztix.com. Whiztix.com is a free to use ticket search engine which compiles results from all the best and reliable websites on the resale market in one place. The price they show includes the transaction costs for the marketplaces they search through, so what you see is what you’ll wind up paying. This is a pretty useful tool for finding the best deals, or the cheapest tickets on the web.