Philadelphia 76ers: An elegy for Roy Hibbert (as a player)

(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

As Frank Vogel and the Los Angeles Lakers face off against the Philadelphia 76ers, let’s take a look back at the career of his protegee Roy Hibbert.

Was anyone having more fun in the leadup to the Philadelphia 76ers‘ Saturday night ABC broadcasted bout against the Los Angeles Lakers than Roy Hibbert?

A quick trip to Instragam shows the 33-year-old not once but twice crashing a makeshift version of ESPN’s The Jump set, even going so far as to challenge the show’s host Rachel Nichols to a sports debate on the hallowed floor of the Wells Fargo Center.

For a dude who hasn’t posted on Instagram since December 30th, 2019, it’s safe to say Hibbert announced his return to the social media world in a beyond fun way.

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But who, you may ask, is Roy Hibbert and why should Sixers fans care? Let’s take a look back at the career of the former All-Star center and lament a once-dominant player the league passed by.

Initially drafted 17th overall in the 2008 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors, Hibbert played the first seven years of his NBA career with the Indiana Pacers and helped to vault the small market, Larry Bird managed club into legitimate Championship contenders.

Paired up with head coach Frank Vogel from midway through the 2010-11 season, Hibbert anchored down one of the most dominant defenses the NBA has seen last decade – averaging an insane -3.74 Real Defensive Rating over their shared tenure from 2011-15. With Hibbert planted in the paint, the Pacers all but neutralized drivers to the paint and forced teams to change their very gameplan when facing off against Indianapolis’ finest.

A two-time All-Star who earned All-Defense honors for his apex season with the Pacers in 2013-14, the Big 3 of Hibbert, George Hill, and Paul George made four straight playoff appearances from 2011-14, losing in the first round in 2011, the second round in 2012, and a pair of Eastern Conference Finals appearances in 2013 and 2014.

If it wasn’t for the Miami Heat, who ran the East during their own Big 3-era, the Pacers very well might have a Chip, but the natural evolution of big men in the NBA  ended any hopes of that happening as the team was then-constructed while also effectively ending Hibbert’s career while theoretically still in his prime (more on that here).

Because of Hibbert’s lack of athleticism and inability to defend on the outside (because of said lack of athleticism) teams started to run smaller ball lineups with 3 point shooters like Chris Bosh at the five against the Pacers, and despite a slew of attempts to adjust, it just never quite worked. After finishing out the 2014-15 season with a playoffs-missing 38-44 record, Hibbert unceremoniously traded in the cosey confides of Indiana for the bright light of Los Angeles, serving as the Lakers‘ starting center in what would go down as Kobe Bryant‘s final season in the league.

Hibbert started all 81 games he appeared in, but ultimately failed to make his way back to the playoffs, as that Lakers team ended up only winning 17 games.

From there, Hibbert split the 2016-17 season between the Charlotte Hornets and the Denver Nuggets, in what would end up being his final season in the league.

Fast forward to 2019, and Hibbert resurfaced as a player development associate with the Sixers – presumably to help Joel Embiid unlock his potential in the paint.

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And the craziest part? Roy Hibbert is still only 33 – younger than LeBron James, Rajon Rondo, and 2004 first-round pick Dwight Howard. While he was cheesin’ it up on The Jump’s impromptu set, his former coach, Frank Vogel, was sitting in the visiting team’s locker room, preparing James, Rondo, Howard, and the rest of the Los Angeles Lakers for a prime time bout against the Philadelphia 76ers. Fortunately for Hibbert, all hope is not lost in securing a championship, even though it’ll have to come as a coach, not a player.