The Philadelphia 76ers announced Wednesday that they have launched a probe into the issues raised by The Ringer’s investigation into Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo and several social media accounts that revealed sensitive team information and openly questioned the behavior and performances of several Philly players, including All-Star Joel Embiid. “We will report the results of that investigation as soon as it is concluded,” the Sixers’ statement read.
The Ringer reported Tuesday that an anonymous tipster pointed out evidence connecting Colangelo to five Twitter accounts that have been critical of current and former Sixers players, former Sixers president Sam Hinkie, and Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri. Tweets from the accounts claimed that a 2017 trade involving former Sixers center Jahlil Okafor was derailed because Okafor failed a physical and that coach Brett Brown wanted Nerlens Noel gone because the former Sixers big man was bad for the locker room, blamed Markelle Fultz and his trainer for the rookie’s shooting woes, and called Embiid a “toddler,” among other things. One tweet also defended the size of Colangelo’s shirt collar.
The Sixers confirmed that one of the Twitter accounts, @phila1234567, was Colangelo’s, but the account has never tweeted and in a statement Colangelo said it was used only to monitor league activity. Soon after The Ringer asked the Sixers about two of the accounts, the three others switched from public to private. In a statement provided to The Ringer on Tuesday afternoon, Colangelo denied familiarity with any account other than @phila1234567, and said he hadn’t posted anything on social media “whatsoever.”
Several people named in the tweets have spoken out in the wake of the story. As you might imagine, none have been more vocal than Embiid:
Joel told me that @samhinkie IS BETTER AND SMARTER THAN YOU @AlVic40117560 #BurnerAccount— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) May 30, 2018
The big man and ardent supporter of Hinkie, who stepped down as Sixers president after Colangelo’s hiring in 2016, fired off several tweets Tuesday night, and liked several of the tweets made by one account in question that took aim at his behavior. By the end of the night, Embiid tweeted, “Fun night on Twitter lmao.. All jokes asides I don’t believe the story. That would just be insane.” ESPN reported shortly after that Colangelo reached out to everyone mentioned by the various accounts, “insisting that he isn’t responsible for those tweets.”
Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union also weighed in on claims made by one of the accounts suggesting both were rude to a young fan at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
I guess all black people do look alike ♂️ because @itsgabrielleu wasn’t at the Olympic in 08. Clearly Eric Jr lied https://t.co/Ofo48glcSw— DWade (@DwyaneWade) May 30, 2018
Well ain't this interesting. I didnt go to the Beijing Olympics so whoever wrote the tweets created a whole rude celeb fantasy for a very specific reason, an attempt to discredit me for my tweets about athletes not wanting to go to the White House https://t.co/OozdMUziPL— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) May 30, 2018
Twitter users also researched the accounts reported to have ties to Colangelo, finding commonalities in the phone numbers and emails registered to them. But mostly, a lot of schadenfreude poured in from all corners of the internet. ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported “confusion” and “snark” around the league. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, a former colleague and close friend of Hinkie’s, and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban also made light of the situation:
You need two blue checks to confirm you are not a burner https://t.co/eZPp2KZ3hg— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) May 30, 2018
Actually , that was back in the day. As of the new TPA (Twitter Posting Agreement ) every NBA exec gets assigned 7 burner accounts. Let me know if I can help you get a for your accounts. BTW, loved your burner account names. @moreymeister is my fave. #FeelTheBurn https://t.co/SRn6vH6PBd— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) May 30, 2018
The Sixers were coming off a breakthrough season, and seemed primed for even bigger things heading into the offseason. Despite hitting a wall in the second round of the playoffs, Philly won 52 regular-season games—its most in nearly two decades—and toppled the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs. Ben Simmons established himself as one of the best young players in the game, and Embiid played in more than double the amount of games he did last season. With cap space to burn this offseason, and rumors of LeBron James being interested in joining the party, the Sixers seemingly were in line to challenge for championships as soon as next season. Now it appears that ascent will at least have to wait until some internal clarity is reached.