Warning: spoilers abound, including the dramatic demise of the 76ers’ season.
Through all the years of painstaking buildup, involving a sprawling cast of characters and frequently hard-to-watch story lines, fans were asked to stay patient. Surely, their investment of time and interest in such an ambitious undertaking would be rewarded with a suitably satisfying — nay, glorious — payoff, right?
Unfortunately, those fans instead have been subjected to a rushed, underwhelming finish that has them questioning why they kept the faith for so long.
Of course, I’m talking about “Game of Thrones.” Oh, wait, no, that was actually a description of the Philadelphia 76ers’ Process.
Oh, heck, why don’t we just agree that it could apply to either high-profile disappointment? That’s right, fans of both the NBA team and the HBO show have very good reason to ask, “We slogged through all that just for this?”
In the case of “Thrones,” this is two final seasons that have compressed story arcs previously unspooled with remarkable deliberateness into a sprint to a questionable finish, one in which major characters have made confounding decisions or been shunted into highly unsatisfying fates.
The 76ers, meanwhile, went from preaching patience (“Trust the Process”) to pushing their chips into the middle of the table with two asset-draining trades, only to fail to make it past the second round of the playoffs amid major questions about the futures of the team’s core players.
Of course, in the case of “Thrones,” unhappy fans can pin their frustrations on two figures: showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, who picked up where original architect George R.R. Martin left off, starting in 2016, but who proved largely unable to handle the project with the same skill and vision.
Hey, that sounds a lot like, you know, the 76ers! Their fans can shake their fists at two successive personnel chiefs, Bryan Colangelo and Elton Brand, who picked up from where Process mastermind Sam Hinkie left off, starting in 2016, but who haven’t exactly been hailed for the same strategic adroitness.
At least, in the case of Phildelphia, there’s always next season and ones beyond, providing hope that better outcomes might be in the offing, even if the roster changes. As for “Thrones,” well, there are still some more books to come, if Martin can ever complete them.
Now, this isn’t to say that it’s been all dissatisfaction lately with both sets of fans. Sixers supporters can realistically envision Joel Embiid becoming the NBA’s best player, Ben Simmons improving his offensive arsenal and either Jimmy Butler or Tobias Harris or even both sticking around and continuing to help form one of the league’s best starting fives.
“Thrones” still has one more episode to smartly pull things together, although it’s pretty much an impossible task at this point, and there are spinoffs in the works. More importantly, the past two seasons, however flawed, have featured all sorts of enjoyable moments, just as the 76ers have often had Wells Fargo Center roaring since 2017.
Heck, Sunday alone produced incredible fireworks. It’s just that, for “Thrones,” they came from Daenerys using her dragon to pull off the mother of genocidal heel turns, while Philadelphia found itself victimized by the insane game-winning shot rattled in by the Toronto Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard.
While survivors sift through the rubble of King’s Landing and the 76ers wait to see whether the Sacramento Kings pick they possess becomes No. 1 overall (otherwise it will go to the Boston Celtics), let’s make the most of the situation and try to draw some more parallels between “Thrones” and the Process, shall we? Specifically, here are how some characters correlate to their NBA counterparts:
Joel Embiid = Bran Stark
It’s tempting to liken the 76ers’ cornerstone center to Jon Snow, the main protagonist in “Thrones,” but it’s more fun to go Mr. Three-Eyed Raven, who possesses wondrous abilities but has a notable history of lower-body injuries.
Ben Simmons = Daenerys Targaryen
As with the First of her Name, the first pick in the 2016 draft is a superstar talent hindered by major problems with firing from long distance. In Daenerys’s case, her problems have involved allowing her dragons to be killed, not using them nearly enough in battles with undead armies or using them far too much when living armies are trying to surrender, while Simmons simply doesn’t make three-pointers. I mean, ever. Seriously, dude, you don’t have to go “Dracarys” or anything, but could you make just, like, one three, please?
Michael Carter-Williams = Ned Stark
The point guard won rookie of the year honors for Philadelphia in 2013-14, the first season of the Process, but he was quickly shipped out of town after that. It was a stunning move at the time, but as it turned out, MCW wasn’t really missed. Likewise, ol’ Ned was the most prominent character of Season 1, only to, ahem, head off before Season 2, but viewers were easily able to move on.
Markelle Fultz = Rickon Stark
Both of these youngsters had a pedigree that seemed to ensure they would be huge contributors, with Fultz the top pick in the 2017 draft and Rickon the sibling to Robb, Sansa, Arya and Bran Stark, not to mention a close association with Jon Snow. But it never worked out that way for either, and they each made a fairly ignominious departure.
Landry Shamet = Lyanna Mormont
They came along fairly late and were gone far too soon. Lyanna went out stabbing a giant, whereas Shamet, after being traded to the Los Angeles Clippers in the Harris deal, fought valiantly in the playoffs but was unable to help his squad slay the Goliath that is the Golden State Warriors.
Tony Wroten = Jaqen H’ghar
Just as Wroten is associated with the origin of the phrase “Trust the Process,” Jaqen gave “Thrones” its closest thing to a catchphrase: “Valar morghulis.” That translates to “All men must die,” which for a while could have been interpreted by 76ers fans, at least when Hinkie was running things, as, “All men must be turned into draft picks, cap space and other future assets.” Both Wroten and H’ghar haven’t been around in recent seasons and were last seen plying their respective trades overseas.
Dario Saric = Daario Naharis
This one is a no-brainer and not just because of their names. Both guys had a lot going for them, and Simmons and Daenerys probably wish they still had them around.
What do you think: are there any Process/"Thrones” parallels not covered here? Let us know in the comments.