Chocolate milk and water flew around the Sixers locker room as Brett Brown enthusiastically rang a model of the Liberty Bell to celebrate the team's first-round series victory over the Heat, his first as head coach.
"Ring that bell!" the players yelled. "Ring that bell!"
The room erupted in cheers, perfectly capturing the essence of what that moment was created to represent. The bell, though small in actual size, carries a huge significance for the Sixers.
The postgame bell-ringing tradition began this season as a way to commemorate wins. The organization has a pregame ceremonial bell-ringing which begins with PA announcer Matt Cord declaring, "The bell is a symbol of the city's unity and passion." Those characteristics fit the team's values too.
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"When you start figuring out how do you want to build a program and what are the cultural pieces that you can implement to sort of show the vibe of the program and even things that could live through the ages," Brown said. "Scott Rego, my equipment manager, and I started spitballing notions about ways to grow the culture. We started talking about a bell and what would happen if we rung a bell after we win."
Rego had a model of the bell made that would be able to withstand repeated celebratory ringing. It arrived just in time to kick off the preseason.
"Brett just kind of casually said this is going to be our tradition when we win a basketball game," JJ Redick said. "We were all hoping at the time that there would be a lot of bell-ringing and a lot of wins. We didn't really know what to expect. But now it's become sort of our thing and hopefully it will be a tradition that carries on long after all of us are here."
That bell was rung 52 times during the regular season and four, so far, in the playoffs. It has become a postgame celebration the players look forward to each night. Following a victory the coaches meet to select the bell ringer. There's no set criteria. The nomination could be as clear cut as the leading scorer or a more subjective inspirational performance. Other times, it could be given to a someone who returned from injury or even two players could be selected. In the case of Brown ringing the bell himself, he presented it to Redick, who then insisted the coach do the honors.
"I like the reaction our team has," Brown said. "They are so tremendously supportive of one another because you could pivot out and give somebody the bell to ring when really somebody might have had a better game, but just for whatever reason I decide I want to have this guy feel good about themselves and they played well enough to earn it. They're just so supportive of whoever rings the bell. They're all in."
Brown even has been tempted to think outside the box.
"There was a stage when Joel played his first game, I was going to have his eye surgeon ring the bell," he said with a smile.
Each win brings joy to Brown; he doesn't have just one favorite postgame ringing. Redick recounted his bell-ringing for knocking down eight threes against the Pacers, as well as T.J. McConnell's triple-double and Markelle Fultz's first selection as memorable moments.
The brief ceremony, which can last under a minute, is meaningful to those who are chosen. It boosts morale and adds an extra layer of positivity to an already successful night.
"Ringing the bell is just one sign how this team is great. The feeling is amazing," Dario Saric said. "That's showing good spirit of the team. That's showing how this team is full of great character people … It's always a big honor to ring the bell."
The bell is with the Sixers in Boston as they begin the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Celtics. Their goal is to ring it many more times in the postseason, and for years to come.
"When you look back at a legacy, you look at a culture," Brown said. "We hope we can leave something behind that can live through the ages."