The Philadelphia 76ers have a hard time getting noticed or watched in their own city. Sixers fans like myself really haven't had much reason to watch them for a while, especially with the Eagles, Phillies and Flyers around. While they run Philadelphia, win regularly and get sellouts most every night, the Sixers have had some of the lowest attendance numbers in the NBA during the post-Allen Iverson years.
But the Andrew Bynum years - or year, depending on his impending free agency - may be another matter. Two months before Bynum plays his first game for the Sixers, the team has doubled its season ticket sales and quadrupled sales of 10-game ticket plans, according to CEO Adam Aron. In that important regard, the Sixers are finally making a splash - although it isn't the only splash they need.
Philadelphia stopped paying attention to the NBA when Iverson declined and left, and when the Sixers stopped winning. Even when they won big to start the 2011-12 season, sellouts were rare except when superpowers visited and when the playoffs started. According to ESPN, the Sixers did have the biggest attendance increase in the NBA last year - but it still would have been easy to ignore them again before the Bynum deal.
Now that someone big and marketable is in a Philadelphia uniform again, the results are already clear. For the first time in years, the Sixers are a hot ticket, if Aron's numbers are correct. That is a huge reason why they needed to bring someone like Bynum along - but the hard part will come when they have to keep people in their new seats.
Even Iverson wasn't completely enough to fill up Wells Fargo Center by the end of his tenure. When the Sixers stopped being a real contender and Iverson became expendable, it was all downhill from there. So while Bynum may drive attendance numbers up for the first few months of next season, they will tank just as quickly if the Sixers don't win and if Bynum isn't a good fit.
But if the numbers stay up in the seats and in the win column, it should be a deciding factor for the Sixers to sign Bynum for the long term. With the collapse of the Phillies and with the Flyers 50-50 to even play this season, the Sixers are in a position to make some real noise in Philadelphia. Yet if they do and then they lose Bynum to another team, that window of opportunity could close just as quickly.
There were two big reasons why the Sixers made this big move - to move up the Eastern Conference pecking order and to make people want to watch basketball in Philadelphia again. The second mission has already been accomplished, but without success in the first, both dreams will die pretty quickly by this time next year.
Robert Dougherty is a life-long Philadelphia resident and 76ers fan.
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