With the energy still pumping through my veins from the Sixers crowd at Wells Fargo Center in Game 3, I sought out some perspective from a man who has intimately covered this team for over 35 years.
Play-by-play announcer Marc Zumoff and I chat about how this team compares to those in years past, something he's never seen from Allen Iverson (until the night of Game 3), and where he thinks Joel Embiid will rank in Sixers lore. Enjoy!
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Zoo, when I was in that arena for Game 3, the energy was absolutely incredible. I could very literally feel it in my chest … in all the years that you've been around, what moments can you compare it to?
It was extraordinarily loud. I can think of maybe two other instances where it was as loud as that. May of 1999, almost a year ago to the day. The Sixers were the underdog in a series with Orlando and they had split in Orlando like we just did in Toronto … Game 3, and it was our first home playoff game ever in that building, first home playoff game in eight years. The Sixers had some terrible years before that and there was so much pent-up emotion, and it all came out in that game.
The other time was, and I will swear, this was the loudest this building has ever been, when I've been in it … when the Sixers were in the 2001 Finals and they split at Staples Center and they came back for Game 3. When Allen Iverson was introduced, it actually hurt. It was almost a painful experience (because it was so loud) to hear something like that.
Speaking of Iverson, the other night, with him sitting courtside, you could feel the passion he has for this team, for this city. He felt so intimately a part of this team's playoff experience. What do you think that represents?
Iverson is a Sixer. He's played for other teams, but he is a Sixer and when he led the team to the Finals in 2001, that was an unbelievable confluence of basketball and a city's culture because of the way the team was designed and because of the way he played. It was all underdog and blue collar and that's why he has remained such a crowd favorite.
As far as last night, I want to say it was on Jimmy Butler's breakaway dunk where they started the fourth quarter on an 11-0 run … the place was jumping and Iverson, who smiles a lot, had an expression on his face that I've never seen before. I've known him since he was a rookie and was wearing diapers with the Sixers, so to me, that said a ton about his feelings, the emotion of the crowd in general and the kind of emotion that this team is beginning to elicit. [His expression] was radiant. There was so much joy and appreciation for the moment. He was over the moon.
What has been your favorite part about watching this team?
Seeing them come together in the playoffs as they have because I think that's what everyone was hoping for. The Sixers in the Brooklyn series found two things. I think they found chemistry. You can have good players on the floor, but it doesn't automatically translate into guys sharing the ball and doing the right thing. It just so happens that this particular group, through the coaching of Brett Brown, they've been able to do that. And then also on the defensive end, somehow, someway they have been able to figure things out and it really culminated in the Toronto game in the fourth quarter where even if they double teamed Kawhi Leonard, their rotations were such that, despite whatever swinging of the ball Toronto did, they didn't get any open looks.
You've been around a lot of great figures in Sixer history. Put Joel Embiid in perspective for us. I know it's early in his career, but where do you think he ranks?
Let's assume he has a Hall of Fame career where he's able to play anywhere from 60-70 games a year. Let's assume he averages around the numbers he averaged for this season. Let's plug him in as a 12-13-time All-Star. Hopefully there's an NBA championship or two. Maybe there's an MVP thrown in, maybe a Defensive Player of the Year. Then, if you were to make a top-five Sixers team of all-time, choosing by position, he would be the greatest big man. That's in deference to Wilt Chamberlain, to Moses Malone, because while they carved out Hall of Fame careers and won championships with the Sixers, they did not have a run as long as the presumed 12-13 years for Joel. If I'm to project out and he gets a resume similar to what I just projected, he would definitely fit the bill as the all-time greatest big man in Sixers history.
Zoo, I love that you are in studio for our pregame and postgame shows for the remainder of the playoffs on NBC Sports Philadelphia. What do fans get from our coverage that they can't get anywhere else?
In the eyes of our fans, they want someone who's been with the team all 82 games, plus playoffs, and quite frankly the national guys (who do a really good job), just can't do that. What we provide is exactly that. You have myself, Jim Lynam, who's played the game, coached the game, even a former Sixers coach and general manager. You have Marc Jackson, who was born in Philly, and not only grew up a Sixers fan, but played for the Sixers as well. And Amy Fadool, who has covered our team now for 10 years. Given all of that, and the fact that I've been a fan since the team moved from Syracuse in 1963, you get the kind of perspective that you can't get anywhere else. I think we bring the kind of coverage that Sixers fans want, and quite frankly, I think need, in order to get the best picture.
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