Sixers fans raised a Sam Hinkie banner, then celebrated his legendary pick-swap trade

(Photo: @JakePavorsky on Twitter)

Christmas Day has arrived for fans of the Philadelphia 76ers. It’s the most important day of the year. It’s NBA draft lottery night. And there is no better night to celebrate the man who is responsible for Sixers fans’ love affair with the lottery.

Last year on this day, if you remember, thousands of Sixers fans gathered at Xfinity Live in downtown Philadelphia, and went absolutely bonkers when the Sixers were awarded the first pick in the 2016 draft:

This year, they’ve outdone themselves. About an hour before the start of the 2017 NBA draft lottery, thousands of fans gathered at the same location to honor Sam Hinkie and commemorate the death of The Process (May 14, 2013 – April 6, 2016):

You’ll notice that a good amount of fans in the crowd are wearing black. That’s no coincidence. Sixers fans — and specifically the co-hosts of the Rights to Ricky Sanchez Podcast, Spike Eskin and Michael Levin — have been organizing lottery parties for four years now. They promoted this one — which could be the last — with the slogan “The Process is Dead! Long Live The Process!,” and basically asked fans to come for a Hinkie funeral.

The story behind the banner and The Process is a long one. The short version is that Sixers fans — or at least this cultish group of them — fell in love with Hinkie and his long-term plan for the franchise when he was hired as general manager back in 2013. They were on board with The Process — the tanking, the accumulation of assets, etc. — all along. But the team nudged Hinkie out the door last spring, angering Process Trusters and effectively ending The Process. So fans took this year’s lottery party as a chance to thank Hinkie and celebrate what he did for the team.

And then they celebrated Hinkie’s most legendary trade, a 2015 deal with the Kings that netted the Sixers, among other things, a future first-round pick and the right to swap first-round picks with the Kings in 2016 or 2017. So when the Kings jumped into the top three Tuesday night — and ultimately had to give their pick to the Sixers — fans in Philly went nuts:

Even the official Sixers Twitter account had fun with the pick swap:

As did Nik Stauskas, who went to Philadelphia as part of the 2015 pick-swap trade:

There were other absurd parts of this year’s lottery party, too. It featured a marriage proposal, which was part of a contest sponsored by a local jeweler:

There were removable Hinkie tattoos:

There was a cardboard cutout of Vlade Divac — one of the masterminds behind the pick-swap trade on the Kings’ side — with which fans could take photos:

The party also featured a whole lot of chanting, starting as early as three hours before the actual lottery, and ranging from “Trust The Process!” to “Swap the picks” — which proved to be prophetic.

Fans even went nuts as a slideshow of Hinkie photos played on the big screen. You can see more videos at the Rights to Ricky Sanchez Facebook page.

At one point, lottery party-related hashtags were trending on Twitter in Philadelphia above some other fairly significant events:

Sixers fans are insane, and weird as hell. They’re also the best. The lottery party started at a local establishment in year one, and was far bigger than even the organizers expected. It graduated to a Buffalo Wild Wings in year two, and was overflowing hours before the lottery began. It went to Xfinity Live last year, and is there again this year, with tickets required to get in. The pick swap was, in a way, the perfect culmination of it all.