Philadelphia 76ers: Markelle Fultz is the antitheses of a ‘Philly Tuff’ athlete

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

After watching Jimmy Butler lay it all out for his new city, Markelle Fultz’s decision to quit on the Philadelphia 76ers is the antitheses of ‘Philly Tuff’.

Yesterday, Section 215‘s own Jake Starr broke down the latest entry in the Philadelphia 76ers‘ (not) great ‘Markelle Fultz injury-saga’, and this latest ‘setback’ honestly made me angry.

While I, or even the most patient Sixers writer could put together a scathing review of virtually any game Markelle Fultz has played so far this season, the majority of the fan base hasn’t been too receptive of such negative content.

For whatever reason, Fultz has been handled like a Faberge egg by fans in the City of Brotherly Love, terrified that a critical eye could somehow crack his paper-thin membrane, and leave the team with a broken player unable to even come close to matching the value ex-GM Bryan Colangelo shipped off to Boston to secure his services.

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Was Fultz’s recent pump-fake free throw been embarrassing to watch? Yes. Has his Ben Simmons-esque shot chart at times handcuffed Brett Brown‘s play calling abilities and lineup versatility? Sure. Has Fultz’s nonchalant, I-don’t-really-care on-court demeanor caused many a fan in the Wells Fargo Center to grimace with disdain? Oh, you bet, but throughout it all, the collective fan base has opted to stick with Fultz’s because he’s ‘one of us’.

But that all changed once Jimmy Butler came to town.

After watching Fultz whiff on dunks, and struggle to even attempt an outside shot, fans in the 215 were gifted a player that couldn’t be more Philadelphia if he’d been born inside the Liberty Bell. A loud, brash jerk who will take this own teammates to task for not trying hard enough in practice, and leave everything he has on the court like he’s Rocky Balboa.

And so far, he’s been even better than fans could have hoped.

In the ‘Jimmy Butler-era’, the 76ers are 3-1, and he’s played an instrumental part in each of their last three straight wins, forming a perfect wing combo with recently reincorporated starter J.J. Redick.

However, even though his team is playing their best basketball in months, Fultz simply couldn’t handle receiving a diminished role with the team.

Maybe it was Coach Brown’s decision to give the people’s champion Timothy John McConnell minutes at backup point guard in the Sixers’ recent win over the Mikal Bridges and the Phoenix Suns that served as the final straw, but by choosing to remove himself from the team for almost a week on ‘recommendation of his agent’ until he could see a shoulder specialist in New York, Fultz has committed a cardinal sin the likes of which we have not seen in Philadelphia in a very, very long time: He’s effectively quit on his own team.

Now I get it, after being a top recruit at a time-tested prep school, turned conscious first overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Fultz hasn’t exactly been forced to go head to head with adversity since his days being cut from the varsity team back in high school, but one thing Philadelphia fans hate more than anything else is someone who’s not going to give it their all.

Be they fictitious like Rockey, Creed, or Mark Wahlberg in Invincible, or real life bruisers like Charles Barkley, the ‘Broad Street Bullys’, or the real-life Vince ‘Invincible’ Papale, Philly loves a fighter, even if that fighter doesn’t always come out on top.

Even a player like McConnell, an undrafted rookie out of Arizona, has become a bit of a folk hero in our fair city thanks to his tireless motor and willingness to do all the dirty work needed to win an NBA basketball game.

Which brings us, and the entire 76ers organization to a crossroads.

With the ‘Process’ officially over, the team has their three stars in place in Joel Embiid, Simmons, and Butler, but what is the Sixers identity moving forward?

Are they a team built to shoot a gaggle of 3-pointers? Not really. Are they a team that’s going to kill you with speed? Not with JoJo manning the paint. But do you want to know what the Sixers do have, maybe more so than any other team in the league? Heart.

As highlighted by their current standing as the only team with an undefeated home record left in the NBA, this Sixers squad is going to fight tooth and nail game-in and game-out to give their fans a W, even if that means having to get their hands dirty in the process.

Fultz? He’s willing to abandon his own teammates for an entire week and pull himself from the team’s active roster for what can only be described as ‘personal reasons’.

But these aren’t the October 76ers anymore, no, everything changed on that fateful Saturday afternoon when Elton Brand made a call that effectively altered the trajectory of the franchise forever.

Next. Taking another look at the Markelle Fultz-saga. dark

Will Butler be enough to vault the Philadelphia 76ers past the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, and Toronto Raptors in route to a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals? Will he help to form a new ‘Big 3’ the likes of which the East hasn’t seen since LeBron James made ‘The Decision’ to relocate to Miami? Only time will tell, but as of right now one thing is clear: If Jimmy Butler’s all-heart approach to the game of basketball is the literal personification of ‘Philly Tuff’ athlete, then Markelle Fultz quitting on his team has to be the antitheses.