The big shot private equity billionaires who own the Philadelphia 76ers aren’t the cold-blooded mercenaries they’re painted as. The four owners — all Wall Street wizards — are actual 76ers fans. (They all attended the UPenn’s elite Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia, where Sixers love is strong.) Yet Josh Harris, David Blitzer and co. stripped the Sixers of talent this year like no one’s done since Charlie O. Finley sold off the Oakland A’s — and they did it to tank. To finish last. So they could reap the rewards of a high draft pick and build from the bottom up. The billionaires seem to want to run the 76ers as a version of a “Lean Startup” and they certainly put the “minimum viable product” on the floor last year.
It didn’t start out that way though. When the Wall Streeters first came in 2011, they plunked down big money for Lakers center Andrew Bynum, a young talent who already had two championship rings. They thought Bynum might be just enough of a facsimile of Moses Malone to push the team to the top (as Moses had in 1983, his first year with the team). But Bynum cost the owners millions and never played a game. Once bitten, twice shy are these Wall Street Wizards. But betting on an unproven player out of the draft? Is that any smarter? We shall see.