Ryan Howard Meets His "Idol", Exchanges Jerseys With Juventus Players

Ryan Howard Meets His "Idol", Exchanges Jerseys With Juventus Players

All of a sudden Philadelphia is a world soccer hotspot. Everton visited PPL Park last week. Real Madrid played at the Linc last night. Juventus has made Philadelphia its home base, practicing at the NovaCare Complex, during the World Football Challenge.

Amongst other things these world class clubs bring international superstars, a rabid media following, and incredibly funny cultural differences.

For instance, the picture above of Ryan Howard and Cristiano Ronaldo was posted to the Real Madrid website.

The caption accompanying the photo is phenomenal.

"The Philadelphia Phillies player went to Lincoln Financial Field as soon as his team's game was over to meet the Portuguese player, whom he regards as one of his idols."

Photo of Howard with Juventus players and a video after the Jump...

Apparently, in addition to leading La Liga in goals and taking his shirt off every hour on the hour, Ronaldo is also writing copy for the Real Madrid website.

Today, Howard, who somehow managed to regroup after meeting one of his
idols,  exchanged jerseys with Juventus players Alessandro Del Piero,
Andrea Pirlo, and Giorgio Chiellini. No doubt Del Piero spent the
remainder of the afternoon trying to figure out how to pop the collar on
his new Phils jersey.

Finally, as an added bonus here's an unbelievable video from Juve's YouTube page. The training montage, primarily shot at the NovaCare Complex, makes use of the what may possibly be the greatest and most dramatic 80's music accompaniment ever (Rocky training in the Russian winter included).

Many thanks to the great Philly promoting Uwishunu for alerting us to the photo of The Big Piece with Cristiano Ronaldo. The photo of Howard and the Juventus players courtesy of @philaphillies.

Sixers merchandise sales on the rise along with win total

Sixers merchandise sales on the rise along with win total

Between recent wins and Joel Embiid’s All-Star push, fans are buying their Sixers gear.

According to Fanatics.com, a sports apparel website partnered with the four major sports, the Sixers rank fourth among all NBA teams in total merchandise sales over the past seven days. The Warriors, Cavaliers and Bulls are ahead of them.

Joel Embiid was the fifth-best selling player over that period. His popularity has risen during his enthusiastic All-Star campaign, which included celebrity shoutouts and an outpour of social media activity. Embiid is now up to 553,000 Twitter followers.

The Sixers have ranked in the league’s top 10 of merchandise sales since the beginning of the 2016-17 season. They hold the largest year-over-year increase during that time frame in the NBA this season.

In September, Ben Simmons ranked in the top 10 of NBA players in merchandise sales since draft night.

Sales from the Sixers' and NBA's official online stores are included in these statistics.

Sixers clicking just in time to face surging Raptors on Wednesday

Sixers clicking just in time to face surging Raptors on Wednesday

The Sixers are clicking just in time to face their toughest competition in over a month. The Raptors (28-13) come to Philadelphia as the Sixers have won six of their last eight games by holding one another accountable and taking each outing step-by-step.

“You feel like the group is coming together,” Brett Brown said. “You feel like all the work that we have put in is starting to pay dividends in relation to a solid foundation.”

The Raptors sit second in the Eastern Conference, just one and a half games behind the Cavaliers. The last time they met, the Raptors beat the Sixers 123-114 on Dec. 14 at the Wells Fargo Center.

A lot has changed since then, especially the rotations. Brown started Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor together against the Raptors, an experiment that waned out after six games. The Sixers have found a formula to winning with an established starting lineup and a consistent second unit, with the added experience of Gerald Henderson and Nerlens Noel. They will be tested Wednesday as both Joel Embiid (illness) and T.J. McConnell (wrist) are questionable.

“When you look at this team, it’s a lot of talent but we didn’t play as a team,” Ilyasova said of the start of the season. “Now we come together. I think it’s all about the chemistry, we trust each other.”

The Sixers are looking to carry over the momentum of a 113-104 victory over the Bucks in Milwaukee on Monday. They got a test of All-Star caliber talent against Giannis Antetokounmpo, whom they held to two points in the second half. The Sixers will have their hands full with the backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry (22.2 points, 5.0 rebounds, 7.2 assists) and DeMar DeRozan (28.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists).

One key to countering talent like that placing an importance on accountability. The players are not letting each other off the hook for mistakes on the court, regardless of who the opponent is.

“I could see it over the past couple weeks, guys coming out here and being more vocal on both ends of the court,” Noel said. “If one guy messes up, you’ve got to let him know so it won’t be a recurring thing. With that, guys are taking steps in the right direction, both leadership roles because everybody on this team can be a leader in their own way.”

The Raptors come in on a four-game winning streak.