Some heroes hide in plain sight. I know of such a man. He kept his actions in the shadows for about a year. Now, fittingly, he’s shining a light on what he did. (That’s a bad joke you’ll understand and hate me for soon enough.)
Our central character in this story lives in South Jersey. Spent almost his entire life there. Massive Sixers fan, though it wasn’t always that way. As a kid, he had a brief flirtation with the Bulls. Michael Jordan came to town and he fell in love. Who didn’t? This was during the Sixers’ Manute Bol era, which absolves him of any provincial treason charges that might be levied by fellow fans. When Allen Iverson landed in Philly, our fan repledged fealty to his local team. He’s been loyal ever since. He had Sixers season tickets for a while, but he got rid of them after his daughter was born. He wanted to save money, and there were other problems. The tickets were one in front of the other, in different rows, rather than side-by-side.
"He could never figure out why he couldn’t sell them," Spike Eskin said, laughing.
Spike, who hosts the Rights to Ricky Sanchez podcast and serves as a pied piper for pro-Processers, is good friends with our still-unidentified champion. Spike would like you — and especially the Sixers — to know that he had absolutely nothing to do with what you’re about to read.
By day, our hero is an electrician. That’s why we haven’t used his name. He’s 37 years old and squirreling away paychecks to move his wife and daughter to California, and he’d rather not get in trouble at work between now and then.
"I want Joel Embiid to know what I did," he told me. "But I’m also pitted between Joel Embiid and my job. Not like it’s illegal what I did. You can’t even see it. But … I think I’m going to have to remain anonymous."
OK. What should we call you?
"I’ll leave that to you," he initially replied, then immediately came up with an answer: "Son of Sam."
And now we get to the plot. Son of Sam worked on the Sixers’ new practice facility while it was being built in Camden last year. Here’s a time lapse of the construction.
The building is massive, and like a lot of guys in his profession, SOS often found himself working unsupervised. On his second day, he was running a conduit from the aquatics room (!) to the electrical room. "This shit is really high tech over there," SOS said. "I was putting an underwater fucking camera in for the treadmill. They spared no expense."
That’s when he had an idea. He was alone, he’s an electrician, and he’s a Sixers fan. "There was drywall up all over," SOS said. "I realized there were lots of hiding places if someone wanted to hide shit. I wanted to hide shit."
So he hid shit. For the next six weeks, he wrote pro-Process messages all over the building in black Sharpie. You can’t see them, but they’re there — secreted behind walls and in ceilings, scrawled on light fixtures and outlet panels, scribbled on fuse boxes. They’re everywhere — including the owners’ lounge/boardroom and general manager’s office. You might say the building is powered by the Process. (Last electrician joke. Promise. Probably.)
Look, I get it. You have Process fatigue. Stipulated. We all need a break. But hidden messages! In the lights and walls! Literally right under — or rather right above — Bryan Colangelo’s unsuspecting nose! How do we not write about that? Plus, SOS kept the receipts. There are pictures. Lots of them.
Here, we offer a guided tour with our Process protagonist. (I know, it’s insufferable; Process fans are the new Pats fans.)
The Owners’ Lounge/Boardroom
The owners’ lounge/boardroom is on the second floor, just above the general manager’s office, and overlooks the courts below. SOS was charged with running the wiring and lighting here. It took about three days. After the carpenters installed the ceiling tiles, it was SOS’s job to pop in the trims. That’s what the black casing that houses the lights is called. As you can see, he abbreviated "Trust the Process" to "TTP" because there wasn’t much room to write. SOS had boxes of them, and put the same message on each trim.
"Those same exact lights are also in two offices to either side of the owners’ lounge, to the direct right and direct left," SOS said. "One of the offices belongs to [majority owner] Josh Harris. And the other is for the other owner. What’s his name? I want to say his name is … Wolf Blitzer?"
"Oh yeah," he said. "That makes more sense. Yeah, they’re right above their heads and they don’t even know it."
They do now.
Son of Sam said that part of the reason he had so much time to launch his covert guerrilla propaganda operation was because construction of the facility was behind schedule. There were various reasons for the delays, but some were owed to different decision-makers changing their minds.
According to SOS, it was well known by people on the job that Harris’s wife, Marjorie, was involved with the facility’s interior decorating. The biggest delay, Son of Sam said, had to do with an elevator. They couldn’t get what’s called a COO — a certificate of occupancy — until it was installed and ready. The problem, he said, was that Marjorie wasn’t sure what the inside of the elevator should look like. SOS estimated it takes six to eight weeks to build a custom interior and deliver it, and then another two weeks at least for the elevator guys to install it. (A Sixers spokesperson confirmed that Marjorie had a consulting role on design elements, but denied there were construction delays and said the facility opened on time.)
There were also changes to the owners’ balcony overlooking the court. Initially, the parapet was made of glass. The Sixers didn’t like that. They changed it to wood. They didn’t like that either and changed it back to glass.
"They were doing stuff like that all the time," Son of Sam said. "That stuff is really, really expensive on a job like that. And time consuming."
SOS didn’t mind. He found a way to fill the days.
The General Manager’s Office
The boxes below control the feed for the automatic blinds in Colangelo’s office. They’re installed right above the ceiling. As you can see, SOS wrote "Trust the Process" on the inside of one panel and "Hinkie died for this…" on the the other.
The GM’s office is a big, beautiful space in a prime part of the facility. It has two glass walls — one that looks out onto the practice courts and one that borders the office section of the building. You can see everything inside the office, which is where the automatic electric blinds come in. According to Son of Sam, it was initially designed as a war room and/or conference room. He said the original plans, from the Sam Hinkie days, called for the GM’s office to be much more modest — a smaller room he called "nothing special" that was located by the parking lot where the players enter. That changed, SOS said, when Colangelo took over. He didn’t want the small office. He wanted the big glass box.
The red circle in the first picture below is Colangelo’s office. Above it you’ll notice the owners’ lounge with the balcony wall that was changed from glass to wood and back to glass again. The second picture is the view from what would have been Hinkie’s office out near the parking lot.
Rumors about Colangelo and others altering the building blueprint were being whispered all over town during construction. "[Bryan] came in and changed all kinds of stuff," a team source told me. "I’d guess at least seven figures’ worth of changes. But everyone did. There were so many changes I would hear something crazy got changed and be like, ‘Yeah, sure, whatever.’"
Reimagining the plans after a front-office shake-up is understandable (to a point). Two different guys. Two different visions. Makes sense. For example, Hinkie reportedly wanted ceiling-mounted backboards to avoid Paul George–type injuries. Colangelo went with floor-anchored baskets to keep it consistent with the NBA game. (It should be noted that the facility has both styles, but the four main baskets on the two full courts are on stanchions.)
In a statement given to Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Mike Sielski in August, a team spokesperson insisted that "Sam’s resignation and Bryan’s arrival had no impact on the timeline related to the training complex." SOS doesn’t buy it.
"I don’t know if the blinds were originally intended or not," he said. "But still. Hinkie had this normal office and Colangelo wanted this huge office. I didn’t think that was cool."
He paused and laughed.
"I was a little spiteful," he conceded.
As the facility neared completion, the foreman tasked Son of Sam with "finish work," which meant installing various devices — outlet plates, light switches, dimmer switches. That kind of thing. If it’s an electrical device, it has a plate on it — most likely with more secret messages stamped on them.
At the time, while he was doing all this, SOS sent some of the photos to certain Sixers employees he knew. In a surprising development, they stayed quiet about it and didn’t tell anyone.
A Job Well Done
And here we come to the end of our story. Son of Sam said he conducted the clandestine campaign in good humor, and he’s declassifying it now because he’s pretty sure fellow pro-Processers — and maybe even Joel Embiid — would want to know.
"Any of us would have done the same thing in my position," he said. "Suppose you were an electrician in South Jersey and you were left alone in that building to do your work. What would you do?"
He wants the Sixers to understand he wasn’t trying to be mean-spirited, and he’s hopeful that enough time has passed that Harris and Blitzer and Colangelo and the rest of the Sixers brass will chuckle. Maybe. But a team insider wasn’t so sure. That person said the higher-ups remain so sensitive about Hinkie and the Process that "it would not surprise me if, in a month’s time, we’re tearing out light fixtures."