Chris Morris, an actor and comedian from Roxborough, has a particular soft spot for ‘Big Shot’. As a child, he was visited by the former Philadelphia 76ers mascot while recovering from a hernia operation. He received tapes of the mascot’s routines and would often perform them for relatives at family parties when he was younger.
“That’s how I learned how to dance,” said Morris, son of famed basketball coach William ‘Speedy’ Morris.
Now, Morris is looking to take that love to a new level. This season, the team brought back its classic retro uniforms and logo to reflect their success in the 1980s. The decision inspired Morris and other local basketball fans to start campaigning to also bring back the traditional mascot of that era.
Morris’ friends had the perfect person in mind and launched a facebook campaign in his honor. Just three days after the page went public, Morris had the support of 1,761 members.
“I talked to my friends to see if we could get a group together,” said Morris. “I never expected the media to pay this much attention.”
Morris is no stranger to performing as a mascot. His dad, as the former basketball coach at LaSalle University, gave Morris the chance to be the famous Explorer during exhibition games.
“Mascots are about kids,” said Morris. “It’s about letting them have fun.”
At the end of 2011, the 76ers organization retired the current mascot, Hip Hop, and asked fans to choose between three suggestions, a dog, a moose and Ben Franklin. All received a lukewarm reception from fans, leading many to suggest bringing back ‘Big Shot’ to keep in line with the whole retro look of the current season. Morris praised the respect that the new ownership has for the franchise’s history. The new Sixers ownership just bought the court where Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in a game.
“The new owners have been dealing with a lot of stuff,” said Morris. “They have been doing a great job, getting people to come back to see the team play. I would just like to sit down and present my ideas.”
While Morris waits to hear from the Sixers, he continues to take part in what he loves: comedy. A 15-year veteran of the stand-up comedy circuit, Morris will be performing as the Cowardly Lion in the ‘The Wizard of Oz’ at Footlighters Theater in Berwyn.
“This is another character I wanted to play,” said Morris. “It’s a different version [of Oz] than to what I was expecting.”
The Wizard of Oz opens on March 2 with shows every weekend until March 24. On Feb. 17, Morris will be performing a fundraiser at the theater in support of the show.