As Andrew Bynum and Jason Richardson, the newest additions to the Philadelphia 76ers, took their seats at a table set up at the National Constitution Center on Wednesday, hundreds of fans began to chant “And-rew By-num.”
At an unusual public press conference to introduce players acquired last week in a four-team trade, Bynum seemed initially taken aback by the show of support, before a large smile appeared on his face.
Even though the 24-year-old 7-foot center has played under the bright lights of Los Angeles, won two NBA championships and went to his first all-star game last year, Bynum has never been the star of an NBA team.
Since 2005, when he was the youngest player ever selected in an NBA Draft, he has always played second or third fiddle to all-stars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol on the Lakers. But last week’s trade, which also sent Dwight Howard to the Lakers and former Sixer Andre Iguodala to the Denver Nuggets, changed all that.
Bynum has instantly become the most recognizable Philadelphia basketball player since Allen Iverson, for a team that ranked 14th out of 30 teams in attendance last season. The public press conference was unusual for an NBA team introducing new players, but Joshua Harris and Adam Aron are not typical owners.
The two men bought the team last summer with a group of investors that includes actor and Philadelphia native Will Smith, and they have infused a new energy into the franchise. Bynum was one of several new additions to the Sixers this offseason, as management continues to work to raise the team’s popularity in the region. Fans may have appreciated the opportunity to get close with their favorite team’s new players, but the press conference was clearly set up to impress Bynum.
The Plainsboro, N.J., native grew up less than an hour from Philadelphia, and Sixers management hope to sign him to a long-term deal as he enters the last year of his contract.
This strategy to make Bynum feel like a star may already be working. When Bynum was asked whether he thought about signing an extension with Philadelphia, he admitted, “I’m really leaning toward making this my home.”