The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

The weekly student newspaper of Bucknell University

The Bucknellian

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Basketball takes a backseat in Philly

By Julian Dorey

Contributing Writer

For a diehard Philadelphia fan like me, yesterday was a nice change of pace. It was the first day without a thought of the Phillies’ “black October” (since the unceremonious end of the now-dreaded postseason), and the first day since that disappointing Phillies loss that the Eagles have played second fiddle to another Philadelphia sports team.

The Phillies and the Eagles were shunted behind a Philly team with the biggest news of the day. No, I’m not talking about the Flyers. I’m talking about the 76ers.  Remember them?

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While the prima donna parade—the NBA lockout mediation meeting—was going on in D.C., the Philadelphia 76ers stole the thunder in the local market by unveiling their new ownership group.

While it’s understandable that some people are simply turned off to the NBA and could care less right now, I’d say that even the casual fan should at least perk his or her ears up on this one. The 76ers finally have some new blood. After 15 years being responsible for his “red-headed stepchild,” as Anthony Gargano from 94.1 WIP-FM put it to me on air yesterday, Ed Snider finally decided to relinquish his power so that the Sixers could have an ownership strictly dedicated to their well-being. For those of you who are unaware, Snider has owned the Philadelphia Flyers since its establishment in 1967.

So, who are the new guys?

Well, the new ownership team is a bit crowded.  But, in essence, the team is comprised of 15 investors, with two having the largest stake in the team.  However, there are a couple of the minority owners who actually do matter.

But  just who are these new owners?

To help break down and predict the makeup of the Sixers’ new brass, I’ve decided to invoke some parallels from the greatest film of all time, “The Godfather.”

The Don Corleone of the Philadelphia 76ers is majority owner Joshua Harris.  Harris is a New York investor, who, at age 46, is already worth an estimated $1.45 billion.  Harris has been serious about purchasing the Sixers for a long time and finally went through with it in July.  The deal took 3 months to be ratified by the NBA.  While Harris is the managing owner, Sixers coach Doug Collins wasn’t afraid to say that Harris isn’t exactly a basketball analyst. Harris is a shrewd and cunning business man.  He made it clear in the press conference that he will run “the business end” of things and make sure that the Sixers become a prospering “family” in the long run.  He has entrusted the basketball decisions to Sixers president Rod Thorn and Collins.

Already, WIP’s Howard Eskin seemed to have his doubts as to whether or not Harris understood just how much of a financial failure the 76ers were last year.

I think I’ll give “the Godfather” a chance to work his business magic for the next couple years.  Then we can talk, Howard.

The Michael Corleone of the 76ers is co-owner and newly-appointed CEO Adam Aron.

Aron is the other “investor” with a major stake in the team.  He will be living in south Philadelphia, “outside the Italian Market,” as he said (unlike Harris, who will be commuting via train from New York).  Aron will be the second in command and will oversee all day-to-day operations of the Sixers.  He too made it clear that he is entrusting the basketball decisions to Rod Thorn and his basketball-educated staff.

Aron will probably do more talking than Harris, as he seems to be a more outgoing man interested in dialoguing with the people.  To start off his reign with the Sixers, Aron has set up a webpage for Sixers fans to send in suggestions for the team.

OK, so he may be channeling Sonny’s sin of “letting other people outside the family know what he’s thinking”—but I like it.  The organization has been losing money for years, and in order to buck that trend, Aron has to go straight to the source—the fans.

Did I mention the Sixers slashed the seating prices by 50 percent?

Yeah, I’d say that’s a good start.

There are a couple more “family members” the fans should be aware of. I’d like to call them both the Tom Hagens of the Sixers—but in their own rights.

The first minority owner that fans should know about is Jason Levien.  Levien is a former NBA agent with vast knowledge of the game, and he is one of the first agents to become an owner of an NBA team in league history.  He will provide some good input for salary cap strategy and will certainly add some basketball knowledge to the ownership group.

The second consigliere is a guy that I consider “the ace in the hole” of the entire ownership group: rapper/actor Will Smith. Smith is a native of Philadelphia and a lifelong fan of the 76ers.  Until several years ago, he was a season ticket holder who attended many games throughout the year.

Somehow, during this entire buying process, all sides were able to keep their mouths shut and avoided mentioning Smith as a potential buyer to any news outlets.

I believe that Smith is going to prove to be a huge asset to the organization—and it’s not just because his star status will bring some much-needed publicity to the franchise.

No, Smith gets us.  He gets the fans.  He gets Philadelphia.  He knows what we want and what we expect.  The only other Philadelphia native on the ownership team is Aron, and he hasn’t lived here since he was 20 years old. Smith has a chance to be the quiet voice in the background giving valid input on important franchise decisions—from marketing ideas to internal discussions regarding potential transactions. Obviously, the man knows a bit about the game.

Yesterday was a great day for the 76ers.  It’s their time to move forward and regain the popularity they once had.  Unfortunately, with the lockout, many of the changes and progress the new owners want to make will have to be put on hold. But the moment that lockout ends—whenever that may be—expect this “family” to start “gaining some new territory.”

—With respect to the NBA, that is.

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