While the Philadelphia 76ers are staring down the barrel of a nearly unprecedentedly bright future after taking the consensus best player in the NBA Draft for the third time in four years in Markelle Fultz, there is, beyond the wild optimism that’s run rightfully rampant through the fandom for the last week, cause for concern. I’m not talking about Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons’ issues staying on the court, or the potential that a couple of the young guys won’t pan out the way they’re expected to, though. I’m talking about this:
Even aside from the fact that the guy who tweeted this is a goateed young nerd-ass white man clunkily attempting to incorporate the word “lit” into his vocabulary a year and a half late, that’s an absolutely awful nickname. Even worse, on draft night, potential Sixers savior and Twitter savant Joel Embiid made his first social media misstep by embracing the nickname, lending it some unfortunate legitimacy:
For one thing, the recent history of giving Philadelphia teams preseason nicknames before they actually do anything isn’t great. Think back to the 2010–11 Phillies Four Aces (Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt), one of the most talented pitching staffs ever assembled that flamed out in the second round of the playoffs and, eventually, precipatetd the Phillies becoming one of the worst teams in baseball for an extended period of time. Not long after, the Eagles came out of nowhere as the “mystery team” suitor for cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, far and away the most sought-after free agent on that year’s market, leading fellow free agent acquisition (and much-hyped number two overall pick) Vince Young to dub them the “Dream Team.” Asomugah ended up being an absolute bust, Young turned out to be entirely inconsequential, and the team went 12–20 over the next two seasons. Given this history, it seems jinxy to give this young Sixers team a nickname.
Even if you don’t subscribe to that sort of cosmic or karmic cause-and-effect, which I try not to, the chosen name is just god-awful. It’s like calling your team “The Cops,” except it might be worse. No one likes rooting for the cops unless they’re watching a a TV show or movie that’s specifically trying to portray the police in a positive light, because if they’re doing their job correctly their nondescript (not so with star basketball players), and if they’re in a position where the public is aware of something they did, it’s usually a useless small-time marijuana bust that their precinct’s Twitter. account tweeted about gloatingly, or they killed a black person and assholes are defending them for being terrible at their jobs (ideally also something star basketball players don’t do).
On top of all that, the NBA is home to a player, Thabo Sefalosha, who just a couple years ago was wrongly assaulted by the NYPD and had his leg broken. Sefalosha sued and settled out of court for $4 million. It’s not like it’s some egregious betrayal of the NBA fraternity for Embiid, Saric, Fultz and Simmons to embrace the name “the FEDS,” but it’s still not a great look, and the name is certainly not good enough to be worth literally any reason to abandon it, no matter how small.
More aesthetically, basketball is the sport most associated with hip-hop abd youth culture, both of which have famously adversarial relationships with law enforcement. From Fuck Tha Police to (more directly considering the issue at hand) Feds Watchin’, police and their federal equivalents have come to be viewed as just lame as hell. This team is far too charismatic and likable to be asssociated with cops trying to tap the Notorious BIG’s phone, or Kelso from That 70s Show, or Seth Rogen and Bill Hader’s characters in Superbad, all bumbling, powertripping morons. That’s a nickname for the Bulls’ front office, not one of the most exciting cores of young basketball talent in recent memory.
What are my alternative suggestions? I don’t have any, to be honest. Like I said, I’m leery of giving the collection of players a label this early anyway, and I prefer for these sorts of thigns to come about organically, the way “the Lineup of Death” did. If they end up being anywhere closas good as they have the potential to be, something good will pop up. Until then, let’s please not call them “the FEDS” or “the Big Three” or any other tired name that gets trotted out for everyone. They — and we — deserve better.