With Markelle Fultz Trade Official, Sixers Fans Launch "RT Armageddon"
The day of Twitter reckoning, when Sixers fans would retweet everyone who ever doubted The Process, arrived on Monday.
The Philadelphia 76ers lost an astonishing number of games over the four seasons of strategic tankery that cover the period known as The Process, which was pretty much the point. But there was, even in the darkest of those hours—which are absolutely as dark as things have ever gotten for a NBA team on a night-by-night basis—the sweet promise of Armageddon. Not as the term is generally understood in the culture, although the final judgment and God's dreadful fiery vengeance would at least have prevented a few desultory 24-point losses to the Bucks. No, this was Retweet Armageddon, a term coined by Michael Levin and Spike Eskin, the hosts of the popular Sixers podcast The Rights To Ricky Sanchez.
Retweet Armageddon, as Levin explained it to me last year, was the day when Sixers fans would look back from commanding heights and shame all who had ever failed to Trust The Process. Every shortsighted critic would be exposed, those of insufficient faith or unworthy vision would be shamed. In that moment, the believers who had suffered through the team's years in the desert/basement would be exalted and made glorious in their faith, or anyway be able to gloat about everyone who didn't think Joel Embiid would ever make it via ironic retweet. When it became official on Monday that the Sixers would be trading their first round pick this year and another pick next year to the Boston Celtics in exchange for the first pick in this year's draft and the opportunity to draft Washington star Markelle Fultz, Eskin decided that the hour of Armageddon had arrived. No on is safe.
And like that, basketball Twitter got extremely petty and amusing, as foretold in prophecy.
Maybe this seems a bit premature to you, given that Philadelphia's (extremely promising) young core of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz has not played a single minute together yet, and given Embiid's ongoing injury issues, and for any of a number of other reasonable reasons. You would not be wrong in this, exactly, but I will submit that you would also be missing the point.
Retweet Armageddon is not about gloating backwards after a victory; "winning the NBA Draft" does not have its own trophy attached. It's more about celebrating the vindication of The Process as a belief. After years of waiting to see whether and how The Process might work, and more than a year after its architect Sam Hinkie was deposed, the Sixers are now beginning to go for it. The Process is not over, exactly—for one thing, the team still has a ton of draft picks to use—but it is entering another stage, in which the present moment will finally begin mattering as much as the distant and hopeful future. "[We] had to jump on this," Levin told me on Monday. "We will never be more cocky than we are right now."
The #RTArmageddon hashtag climbed up national trending charts in the early afternoon, and Spike Eskin's Twitter feed especially became a cascade of past criticism of The Process; the majesty of it was complicated somewhat by the fact that Eskin's father Howard is one of the foremost Hinkie haters and Process Unbelievers in Philly sports media, and therefore a prominent figure in the Armageddon's shame parade. It's hard to know when or where it will stop, but that seems to matter less than the fact that this particular Armageddon started at all.
"I fucking love it," Levin said. "Especially the 'you haven't even won anything yet! Pathetic!' crowd pushing back." Is it petty? It is majestically petty, "the pettiest thing in internet history," in Levin's words. It's deluded and grandiose and silly and hopeful, and it is world-historically petty. It's every great and small thing that fandom is, in short, and it is a glory to behold.
And it just might happen again.