The Least in the East Takes on the Worst of the West

Phil Pressey, JaMychal Green
The Associated Press

Tonight the 0-18 Philadelphia 76ers play the 2-14 Los Angeles Lakers. That’s a .059 winning percentage between the sad pair.

When the 76ers last won a regular season NBA game the world knew Bruce and not Caitlyn Jenner and Scott Walker appeared as the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. And outside of Philadelphia, no team in the four major team sports registers a winning percentage worse the Los Angeles Lakers. At this rate, Kobe’s crew would end the season with the fourth worst winning percentage in NBA history and the mutated progeny of Darryl Dawkins, Allen Iverson, and Mo Cheeks would of course post the worst winning percentage in the history of sports.

Their playing bad makes us sad because we remember when they competed as the class of their conferences. In the early 1980s, the Sixers and Lakers played each other in three NBA championships. In 1980, Magic Johnson famously started at center and scored 42 points, pulled down 15 rebounds, and dished seven assists to lead the Lakers over the 76ers in the sixth and deciding game. Two years later, despite pleas from Boston fans to “Beat L.A.,” Dr. J’s 76ers again fell in six games. But with the addition of Moses Malone for the 1982-83 season, a dominant Philadelphia team swept the purple and gold just as the three-time NBA MVP predicted.

And Americans once drank Schlitz more than any other beer, knew Eastern as one of the Big Four airlines, and made U.S. Leather Company an original Dow component before watching it liquidate. Sports franchises, like businesses, boom and bust.

The 76ers exhibit the growing pains of youth. First-round pick Jahlil Okafor punched a guy in Boston and stared at the wrong end of a gun after a dispute in Philadelphia. He allegedly sped 108 mph on the Ben Franklin Bridge and attempted to use a fake ID in a Philly bar despite the 19-year-old’s celebrity in the city. Because Philadelphia keeps no real veteran presence in its locker room—just one man on its roster entered the world before the 1990s—the team hired a bodyguard to keep its talented but immature big man in line.

The Lakers, in contrast, display the problems of age. Kobe Bryant shoots .305 from the floor, which plays as a problem when you shoot a lot. The roster contains five guys over thirty and and six guys 24 or younger. Rather than a good mix of experience and energy, the young players bring boneheaded play and the old players bring bones worn down by play. It’s the worst of both worlds.

The Lakers register the league’s worst field goal percentage. The 76ers score fewer points and turn the ball over more than any other team. One can argue (or ignore) which team beats the other in bad. Or, one can watch (or not) the teams answer the question tonight in Philadelphia.

Tune in. It’s going to be terrible.