“Now this is the story all about how
My life got flipped, turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel Air”
Y’all can’t help but finish humming the rest of this joint, right?
These classic lyrics to the theme song of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air cross generations. Every kid who grew up in the ‘90s watched this show and knows this jam by memory. Will Smith turned into a superstar right before our eyes.
Throughout the series’ six-year run, Smith’s eccentric personality was something that never really rubbed off well with his uncle, Philip Banks. He brought that West Philly realness to a family that was a cut above Bill Cosby’s Huxtables. All his pranks and antics were comical but served as lessons for him as he later matured. His progression as a man was just as much of a reason to tune into the show as the jokes.
Likewise, Andrew Bynum’s distinct demeanor often drew the ire of Phil Jackson and especially, Mike Brown. He came in as a goofy-lookin’ teenager from New Jersey to the old Rolls Royce of the league, the Los Angeles Lakers. Whether it was the elbow to J.J. Barea or the blatant three-point attempt on a semi-fastbreak versus the Golden State Warriors, the Lakers weren’t going to be tolerant to what others viewed as defiance. These incidents, though, are a mere footnote to an evolved Bynum.
Fittingly, Smith, as a minority owner, would be the one to take us back into time to remember the glory days. One of Philadelphia’s own should be behind the Sixers possible return to prominence, and it should take one all-time great to recognize the next.
Bynum’s move from L.A. to Philly is as big and promising as Smith’s original TV foray. While the basketball world is consumed by Dwight Howard going to the Lakers, the Sixers stealing Bynum has the same landscape-changing effect on the league. The Lakers may now be the favorites to win it all this year, but the Sixers have suddenly positioned themselves to wreak havoc as a contender for years to come.
It took some serious evaluation and guts from the Sixers to revamp their franchise. They barely scraped out a first round win (in six games) over the Rose-less Bulls before losing in seven games to the Celtics in the semis. It was the last straw for the crew led by Andre Iguodala. There was no way their defensive-minded, small-ball approach was going to work any longer. They had to get big.
Quite frankly, the Sixers were overdue for a serious makeover. They haven’t been relevant since Allen Iverson. And that was back in 2006. This past season’s playoff series triumph was the first time they got passed the first round in nearly a decade, and the post-Answer era has left them with nothing but questions.
They didn’t need a pint-sized superstar to get over the hump. They looked back deeper in their history to the last time they won the ’ship. It featured one of the first, and best, prep-to-pros beasts: Moses Malone.
Malone is the basketball parallel to Will Smith’s Fresh Prince in all this.
He spent his first six seasons, made two All-NBA teams, and won a ring elsewhere before getting traded to the Sixers; Bynum was a Laker for five years, where he was named to one All-NBA selection, and won two titles. Malone’s breakout seasons came prior to his time in Philly, when he averaged 27.8 and 31.1 points a night, and led the league in rebounding twice with almost 15 boards a game. Meanwhile last season, Bynum had career highs in scoring (18.7 points a game), rebounding (11.8 a night), and finished third in field goal percentage (55.8). Their biggest nights – Malone’s 53 points on the San Diego Clippers or 21 offensive boards versus the Seattle SuperSonics … Bynum’s 21 points/22 boards against the Houston Rockets or his 30 boards on The Big Fundamental’s Spurs – just showcased their talent.
Yet as great as these stat lines are, it’s the end result of Malone’s first year as a Sixer that Philly would love to have happen: a four-game Finals sweep of the Lakers.
In those Finals, Malone dominated Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He dropped 25.8 points and 18 boards per game, compared to The Captain’s 23.5 points and 7.5 rebounds. That kind of performance was routine during this championship run, when Malone spearheaded a 12-1 playoff record (second best all time) and a Finals MVP.
Now, would it too hard to envision Bynum doing the same work to Superman?
What’s more ridiculous is to dismiss the impact, and the possibility Bynum carries them to new heights.
“He’s not coming in to be a savior,” TNT’s Kenny Smith told the Los Angeles Times in late August.
Was The Jet f@%&in’ serious? That comment sounded like something Charles Barkley would say. Anyone who thinks Bynum isn’t a franchise-changer must be on something. He implicitly took a shot and diminished Bynum as a player. Cats who really know the game realize how valuable Bynum’s low-post game is, as well as his significance to Philadelphia.