Welcome to ‘Winning Culture’ the new column focusing on the Philadelphia 76ers for tapintothemainline.com. Throughout the season we will be following the Sixers and trying to make sense of going from 10 wins to hopefully 55 in just three years. Be sure to check back each week for offbeat insights, weird references, and as many words about Joel Embiid as we can write.
This week, to celebrate the recent Narberth Dickens Festival, we present a fictional flight of fancy: A 76ers Christmas Carol ...
Adam Silver trudged home in the snow angrily. As he had prepared to leave for the day Mark Tatum had asked to be the league representative at the Knicks vs. Bucks Christmas Day game in order to be closer to home for the Holiday. Silver had asked Tatum why he should be the one to have to alter his plans? It was unfair to him to bear the hardship when he paid Tatum a perfectly decent salary and he had caught Tatum turning the heat up in the office earlier in the week. It felt like Tatum was robbing him blind!
He told Tatum he could have the morning off, but he expected him to represent the league at the game between the 76ers and the Celtics in Boston that afternoon. Tatum hadn’t been suitably appreciative so Silver turned the heat off completely as he left.
“Bah. Humbug.” he muttered.
His mood had turned from terrible to completely miserable after he was harassed several times on the way home by well-wishers and people telling him they were looking forward to tomorrow’s games. One of them had said "Go Sixers!" as he ran past. Not for the first time Silver wished it was still fashionable to walk with a cane that he could use to strike urchins such as that.
"The Sixers," he had responded, "are a humbug."
He despised the 76ers. The organization to his mind had ruined the final years of his beloved mentor David Stern’s term with their awful ‘Process’. The plan by their GM, whose name he would not even speak, had made a mockery of the league and humiliated Stern, tarnishing his reputation by subverting the way things should work by blatantly tanking for draft picks. The system was designed to work a certain way and operated by gentleman's agreement. The Sixers had laughed at that agreement. When he became commissioner he immediately set about getting his revenge by dispatching old friend and partner Jerry Colangelo to oust the GM and destroy them from within.
He was dwelling on his hatred of the Philadelphia basketball team as he arrived home to his brownstone. As he fumbled for his keys he heard a sound and looked up at the door.
He gasped in horror.
In place of the lovely door-knocker, David Stern had given him when he took over was a ghostly face. It was only there for a moment but it looked just like Jerry Colangelo whom he had just been dwelling on.
“J….Jerry?” he stammered, but the apparition had faded. Silver steadied himself and grumbled. It must have been something he had eaten at the company holiday party disagreeing with him.
He entered the brownstone and was met with a chill. He had forgotten that his wife and daughter were out of town. He had turned them off when he left, as well as declining to turn any lights on. It was as cold and dark as a house had ever been.
Silver sighed at the cold dark house and went about the business of making himself some supper and putting a fire on in the fireplace to warm up the chill. He was shaken by the odd experience with the door knocker, and before settling in he walked through the house to make sure everything was as he had left it. Not a stitch of clothing or a crumpled bed sheet was out of place. Eventually, he settled in to eat his dinner in front of the fire, by now casting some warmth in the cold room.
As he ate his eyes drifted to the silver bell on the mantle. He couldn’t recall why it was there. It was a gift from one of the league owners, but he had forgotten which. For reasons he could not articulate tonight its sight made him uneasy.
He finished his dinner occasionally glancing at the bell. He resolved to remove it from the mantle and put it in a closet somewhere so he no longer had to look at it when to his utter astonishment it began to ring. It floated just slightly in the air and rang out rapid sharp chimes.
How long the bell went on he could not say. He sat staring at it, terrified. He was too scared to move, barely breathing, when the bell finally stopped it’s unnatural noise and dropped back to the mantle with a last muffled whimper of a chime.
“What on eart…” Silver began before he heard a different clanking noise. It came from deep in the bowels of the house, somewhere in the basement. It was an awful sound that made the strange chiming of the bell sound like an angel singing.
Silver stood up from his chair and turned to the cellar door on the far side of the room. He was about to dial 9-1-1 on his cellphone when a ghostly figure wrapped in chains passed through the door without it even opening.
Into the room floated this figure, wrapped in equally ghostly chains. Silver watched in horror as it floated across the room. As it passed the fireplace, the fire within flared up like the sun briefly as if it knew the ghost before it as well as Silver did.
“No, I don’t believe it!” Silver cried.
The ghost chuckled and settled into the chair across from the one Silver stood before.
In a voice somehow both whispy and booming the apparition said, “It doesn’t matter if you believe Adam, I am real.”
The phantom laughed again and answered, “The very same, your old friend and business partner, Jerry Colangelo.”
“But you’re not dead.” Silver stammered.
Colangelo waived his hand dismissing the statement, “That doesn’t matter Adam. We have much to discuss and time grows short.”
He gestured for Silver to sit, and without thinking Silver flopped into the chair.
“I must have fallen asleep after my dinner and this is a dream” Silver stated after collecting himself for a moment.
The apparition laughed. It was a raspy, awful sound, it followed with “You do not believe in me?”
Silver shook his head, “Of course not.”
The ghost’s visage changed to anger and began to rise from the chair. It started shaking its chains and wailing at the top of his transparent lungs as it floated to within inches of Silver’s face.
Silver screamed out, “I believe, I believe!” and recoiled from the horror in front of him.
The wailing stopped and the ghost drifted back to its chair.
“Why….why are you like this Jerry?”
“I wear the chain forged during my time in Philadelphia. I forged it link by link with deals meant to hurt rather than help. I forged it yard by yard with my betrayals. Now the weight follows me and I can not escape it.”
“But you got rid of the GM, you stopped the embarrassment! You brought in your son! You were good at your business for the league!”
The ghost shouted, “THE 76ERS WERE MY BUSINESS!” with a deafening sound. “The welfare of the team was my business. Not wasting assets was my business. Taking the longest view was my business.”
“Why are you here Jerry? Why have you come to haunt me on the eve of the Christmas Day Games?
“You will be visited by three spirits. Expect the first when the bell tolls one tomorrow. The second at the same time on the day beyond, and the third one day further at the stroke of midnight.”
“I don’t think I want those visits, Jerry,” Silver replied, shaken.
“Without these visits Adam, you will end up like me. There is hope for you yet, but only if you take the lessons you will be taught to heart.”
The ghost then rose and drifted to the window. It took one last look at Silver, and said ‘Remember what I have said!’ and then passed through the closed window.
Silver got up and went to where the specter had gone. He looked out the windows and was horrified by what he saw.
The sky outside was filled with phantoms all bearing the same chains as Colangelo. They wailed and screamed and Silver felt all shreds of hope drain out of him. He was sure he saw some faces he knew. Tony DiLeo, Doug Collins, Eddie Jordan. He wasn't sure but even thought he saw Andrew Bynum among them.
Horrified he retreated from the window and ran upstairs to his bed. Without changing out of his clothes he dove under the covers.
“None of this is real, it’s all a dream," he repeated against the darkness in the room.
Eventually, he fell asleep.
To Be Continued ...
Jacob Jones-Goldstein has written about the Sixers for Roundballrev.com, loves statistics, and Trusts the Process. He dabbles in fiction, watches a lot of movies, and goes to more concerts than he should.