I’ve done a few fan interviews over the years during Sixers games. What I wanted to do this season is get a fan or family every game to give the nation a sense of what goes on here in the minds of brotherly love. Philly native Dr. Marc Lamont Hill supports the home town teams in every sense of loyalty, but he’s not just a sports fan. From his website: “Since 2009, Dr. Hill has been on the faculty of Columbia University as Associate Professor of Education at Teachers College. He also holds an affiliated faculty appointment in African American Studies at the Institute for Research in African American Studies at Columbia University.” We’ve spoken previously and as I scoured the arena post game for someone to chat with, Hill was in the path of Ron Glover and I as we headed to Doug Collins’ post game presser. We spoke about where the Sixers would finish, the economics of the NBA lockout and a big time free agent he thinks the Sixers could potentially acquire.
Michael Tillery: Opening game, new ownership, culture change…what’s it like as a Sixers fan to experience this?
Marc Lamont Hill: Exciting. I’m encouraged to see all the changes. I know there’s a new mascot coming. More importantly, there’s ownership committed…I think…to building a strong team and not just coasting…with intentions to really win a championship and setting the stage for big name free agents to come to create a culture that winning matters to not just make the playoffs but win a round.
MT: The game started slow. There was a lot of people here. I didn’t expect this many people and it seemed to pick up as the game went on. Next thing you know, Jodie Meeks has seventeen in the quarter and they went up by…like…90 (we laugh).
MLH: Here’s the thing, the Pistons are a bad team that turns the ball over. They’re sloppy and we played down to the level of competition. We played Portland and Utah and played well…we come home…they are turning the ball over, we’re making sloppy passes, we’re not rebounding and giving them second chances. Around the third, fourth quarter…killer instinct kicked in, Collins made some changes, called a timeout, then the next thing you know we’re playing ball the way it’s supposed to be played. Switch on defense, setting picks, moving the ball around, letting the hot hand dictate whose taking shots and it was Jodie Meeks tonight…and he scored 17 in the fourth quarter. That’s Sixers basketball. They can win like that.
MT: Seeing the alumni here…obviously it’s big for us because we’re from here…
MLH: It’s exciting. I think the best part of the night was seeing the assistant commissioner get booed and see Andrew Toney get cheered.
That’s Philly right there. That’s exactly what Philly is all about.
We were mad the lockout lasted this long. We don’t like the bosses, but we respect our own. Andrew Toney was a legend. He was a Celtic killer! We will never forget that. That is what’s so great about being a star in Philly. Once a star, always a star. I don’t care if it’s fifty years later. We remember the dudes you shut down on a cold February night. That is what it’s about. That’s the culture of Philadelphia. I hope new ownership understands and builds on that and starts to bring some of these guys back. There are Sixers like Andrew Toney who were gone a long time, who didn’t feel welcome in the building. Now it’s time to bring them back.
MT: How do you think the Sixers will do this year?
MLH: I think the Sixers will win the division. I was just on twitter going in getting clowned by people, but the Sixers can win the division. Do I think they can win the championship? Do I think they can win the east? No. I do think they can win the Atlantic division.
The Knicks are a fraud. They don’t have good rebounding or the defense to win. D’Antoni’s system isn’t built on stopping teams from scoring. The Sixers have a favorable schedule with eighteen of twenty two at home after starting well on the road. The schedule benefits the Sixers. I think they have a strong team. They are returning all their pieces really. They have the best bench in basketball right now…until Dallas gels. So, the Sixers have a chance to win the division and maybe win a round. I think they will finish with a third or fourth seed. If they win the division they’ll get a third if they don’t a fourth. I think they’ll have home court for the first and win that round and then lose out…but the thing is I think they might sneak and get Dwight Howard.
MT: Interesting. Ron Glover and I were just talking about that earlier. Switching gears, speak to the economics of the NBA lockout.
MLH: I supported the players. The owners always overstated how much money they were losing and always made it seem like they were pinching pennies…like there were some Broadway theater owners that were just trying to keep it alive for the art. That was not what was going on.
This is about young men who are going to make money for ten years who are having their labor exploited if they didn’t defend themselves. They stood up and stayed unified and got a much better deal than they would have gotten if they hadn’t done it this way.
I was disappointed with David Stern. I was disappointed with the owners and I was especially disappointed with Michael Jordan. Not surprised really but still I didn’t like the fact that he got amnesia about what it means to be a player and have your labor exploited. Making billions on the backs of guys who are only going to make money for a few years.
Now it’s time to let them play. They stood up and stood strong. I’m glad to see the league back.
MT: Obviously, the league expansion will eventually extend to overseas markets. They players locked themselves into a dollar amount they can never recur.
MLH: I think they stood together and got a better deal. When you talk about basketball related revenue, when you look at some of the structural stuff, they got a better deal had they not fought back but yes, they did lock themselves into a number than they should have. They still created a spaces where pensions and stuff like that aren’t as strong and when the NBA does expand to become fully international and extends into those huge markets in Europe and Asia, they probably didn’t do themselves a service, but nothing is permanent.
What we learned from this and the occupy movement is that when everyday people and workers stand up and fight back they can win. Hopefully in the next bargaining agreement they won’t be so locked in they won’t get a solid deal.