For fans who suffered through the post-Brown to Pre-Collins era (alternate names considered for this era included "The Chris Ford Era," "The Randy Ayers Era," and "The Eddie Jordan Era" just to name a few), Lou Williams isn't just one of the longest tenured Sixers, he's the emotional link from the fans to the organization.
Whereas Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday are still building their relationships with the city, and whereas Andre Iguodala's contract has previously been an obstacle to a full embrace from the fans, Lou has really become "the guy."
Once an under-sized high schooler named "Louis," Philadelphia has done what it does best for its athletes -- shortened his name as a sign of affection. Sure, I remember "Louis Williams," but I feel like I have a history with "Lou Williams."
Sixers fans were treated to a whole lot of hype prior to this season's home opener in regard to just how elaborate the festivities would be. There was the mascot vote (that has yet to materialize in a mascot), the makeover of the Sixers dance team (which has been just fine with us), and even the hiring of Broadway light designers (where actually, the improvement has been noticeable).
All of these things are "nice," but, as we've so often made the point over the past year, mostly unnecessary. For basketball fans, the real fun is in the product on the floor. And so, ironically enough for the new owners who had just sunk some cash into some new bells and whistles, I suppose it wasn't any surprise that the most exciting part of that evening's introductions was also the cheapest.
When Lou Williams addressed the crowd following the player introductions, it lasted no longer than six seconds. Still, those six seconds totally trumped, in every way, everything else that had come before or would come after. For six seconds, Lou thanked us for our support, informed us that he had and his teammates had been working extremely hard and promised that the team wouldn't let us down.
Read that sentence again. Watch those six seconds again. Really -- what more could you ask for from an athlete or his team?
Unfortunately for the ongoing events of that night's pregame ceremonies, the indescribable hype I felt after hearing Lou address the crowd was squashed by poor scheduling. It wasn't that I didn't want to hear from Sixers legends like Doc, Moses, Bobby and World or even from the team's new owners in Josh Harris and Adam Aron; I just wanted Lou's words to be the last thing I heard before the the 76ers went out and pummeled the Detroit Pistons. I was amazed how little it took to get me from "excited" to "out of my seat." And, just to clarify, that was from my seat at home; I wasn't even in the building.
So when I did make it down to the Wells Fargo Center for the team's MLK matinee against the Mikwaukee Bucks just a few weeks later, I was looking forward to finally seeing what all the fuss was about with the Broadway lights and everything else. But I sure as hell wasn't expecting another pregame address from Lou.
Astonishingly, I got it. In honor of the memory of Martin Luther King, Jr., Lou Williams was handed a microphone shortly before tip-off to thank the fans for coming to the game in memory of King. Again, this took anywhere from 5-10 seconds and I went from wanting to watch a basketball game to screaming for Lou to drop 40 on Brandon Jennings and possibly break one of Jennings' ankles on a crossover.
Sometimes, it's the littlest touches that make the biggest difference. In the end, we don't need elaborate lights or a new dance team or free Big Mac vouchers. All we need is Andrew Toney to be welcomed back to the organization and for Lou Williams to tell us that he and his teammates won't let us down.
Given how The Flyers' "God Bless America" routine has become unfortunately over-exposed in recent years, I suggest that the Sixers develop a little tradition of their own, but only for special occasions. Call it the Lou Williams pregame monologue -- or, for you political junkies who are really revved up for tonight, The State of the LOUnion Address.
Potential topics for Lou's unexpected pregame monologues include (but are not limited to): "No one thinks we have a shot in hell to win the NBA Title, but we do. Thanks for your support," "This is a big one tonight, so we're gonna need y'all to get loud. Thanks for your support," and "There's just something about Nick Young's face that makes me want to go for 50 tonight. Thanks for your support."
Really, if Lou Williams can talk his way out of a mugging, imagine what he can talk you into just moments before a game.