Good Vibes Only
Just because the 76ers can’t go out together this season doesn’t mean they’re not celebrating.
Due to health and safety protocols implemented by the NBA for 2020-21, impromptu team gatherings, dinners, and hangouts have all been prohibited this season. But the Eastern Conference-leading Sixers have found a new way to celebrate their successes.
Enter the team’s newest tradition: the 'Postgame Party.'
Who? The Sixers.
When? After [almost] every game.
Where? The weight room.
Why? To promote, grow, and sustain positive energy, and battle for the Big Energy Chain.
“I remember the first couple were private, invite-only, VIP-type events,” Danny Green said in an interview prior to the All-Star break.
As time went on, the attendance grew (in accordance with health and safety protocols).
In the early weeks of the 2020-21 season, first-year Sixer Dwight Howard regularly led a group of his teammates through postgame shooting workouts.
“Dwight used to have the guys after the game, shooting,” Green recalls.
Green, who’s now spent almost two years with Howard, says the future Hall-of-Famer is prone to over-working.
“[The coaching staff] had to cut him back, and had to tell him, ‘No, Dwight, you can’t work out every day.’”
So, instead of postgame shooting, the Sixers pivoted to Postgame Parties in the weight room.
Party attendance is purely voluntary, but those invited don’t bail. Sixers across the roster, from All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons to rookies Isaiah Joe and Tyrese Maxey, have all been spotted.
Now, a few months into the season, there’s a system in place:
The game ends. Some players head to the locker room to change, others stay in their uniforms.
Howard usually gets primary control of the aux cord. Often, he’s stolen Green’s speaker, a souvenir from the Sixers' white elephant gift exchange over the holidays. Ben Kenyon, the Sixers' head strength and conditioning coach, is the master of ceremonies. A select group of Sixers files into the weight room, and the good vibes flow.
“It’s like walking into a club, but it’s a weight room club,” Kenyon said.
“We always joke around about how, in a club, they have their roped off areas for VIP. So Danny Green has his roped off area because he’s the vet. Joel Embiid, when he [comes] in, he had his area.
“The music is loud as all heck, it’s a playlist that they want to listen to, everybody’s high fiving.”
Frequently appearing on the rotating playlist: Meek Mill, Future, Lil Uzi Vert, Nipsey Hussle, Drake, Young Thug, Lil Baby, and DaBaby (or, as Matisse Thybulle puts it, “all of the different babies”).
“We’re in the weight room, and all the guys are in there,” said Isaiah Joe, a regular at the Sixers' postgame weight room club. “We’re bonding, we’re lifting, we’re cheering each other on during the process. It makes it fun just to be in there. Seeing everybody in there makes you want to do even better.”
Throughout his 12-year NBA career, Green has developed a propensity for postgame weight training.
Early in the season, Kenyon challenged Green to lift at least twice a week following games.
“Next thing you know, [Kenyon] is like, ‘I’ve got a couple people coming to the party,’” Green said.
“I was like, ‘Really? So this is not an invite-only type of party? So this isn’t a VIP party? We’re letting the sparklers glow?’
"Next thing you know, we started calling it the Postgame Party. It went from there.”
Thybulle remembers getting his first, coveted invitation.
“All I know is after one game, somebody asked me if I was going to the Postgame Party, and I said yes, because it sounded like fun. Then I realized it was just everybody lifting,” Thybulle said with a laugh.
“I was stuck with it at that point.”
The Parties are forced to maintain an exclusive status because of league health and safety protocols. Even in their own weight rooms, teams are only allowed to gather in limited numbers.
“The invitees vary - I only know when I get invited,” Thybulle said. “I wouldn’t show up to a Postgame Party without an invitation.”
Limited off-court bonding opportunities due to safety restrictions make the Postgame Parties even more cherished.
“Being in there with the guys, lifting together - we don’t get to do much together due to COVID, so that helps bring us together,” Joe said.
Green credits Kenyon with the rise of the tradition.
Kenyon, who joined the Sixers in 2020 after seven seasons with the Portland Trail Blazers, points to Doc Rivers for fostering an environment allowing the Parties to thrive.
“The first time I had a meeting with Doc, he was explaining his philosophy of positive energy,” Kenyon remembers.
“When you walk into the facility, you should hear music in the back, in our weight room, you should hear music on the court. This should be a space where our guys are injected with optimism, injected with positive energy at all times, because it allows our guys to feel good about being in that space.”
Maximizing positive energy in the weight room became an immediate and constant priority for Kenyon, Assistant Coach and Performance Director Todor Pandov, and Sports Scientist and Strength & Conditioning Coach Craig Whitworth-Turner.
While the tradition is still in its early days, almost every Sixer has already attended at least one Postgame Party.
“Honestly the only reason that [a player] wouldn’t have done it just yet is because we have capacity rules,” Kenyon explains. “Just like the club - you can’t have a certain amount of people in there because the fire marshal will come in and tell you to shut it down.
“As the rules lighten up, I’m confident that we can end up getting the whole team in there at one point.”
Rivers’ desire to foster good vibes and positive energy has manifested significantly in the lives of his players.
“With how this season has been, how often we have games, how we have no fans, a common theme has been creating your own energy,” Thybulle said.
“If you’re not creating your own good energy, it’s really easy to fall into a trend of negative energy, and overall negativity. To have the mental toughness to create an alternative for yourself, and for your teammates, is what Doc has been preaching, and what we’ve been trying to do as a team.”
But the Parties aren’t just about the vibes. There’s a strong competitive air in the room - inject as much positive energy into the space as possible.
Whoever brings the best vibes gets rewarded.
“We have fun, and when it comes to the Big Energy Chain, we get competitive,” Joe said. “It’s a friendly competition.
Inspired by a tradition in Portland (involving a smaller chain), Kenyon brought the Big Energy Chain to the Sixers in early 2021.
Kenyon collaborated with ProAmBelts - the same company Kenyon worked with in Portland - in December 2020 to order the Sixers’ custom-made chain.
“I said, ‘Dude, I need something that’s bigger, and better, and badder than what we did with the Blazers,’” Kenyon said. “We came up with a really cool concept - obviously the flex is everything.”
It was an immediate hit, as Sixers players began battling for the chance to wear the chain.
“[The reveal of the chain] was awesome,” Kenyon said. “They just wanted to know how to win it. They wanted to figure out - what was the criteria? Who had a chance to win it? When did they have a chance to win it?
"We figured out that as of right now, the Postgame Party is probably the best place to do it.”
The winning criteria, per Kenyon:
“When it comes to big energy [winners] - they’re a positively infectious person who allows their teammates to get better because of the energy that they’re putting out."
The most heated battle for the Chain exists between one of the team’s oldest members and one of the team’s youngest members: Green vs. Joe.
Thus far, Joe holds a 2-1 advantage over the veteran, and he’s not afraid to show it
“[Isaiah] lets it be known,” Green said after Joe’s second consecutive Big Energy Chain win. “He’s very proud that he’s been winning this chain. He came by my locker as I’m icing, he’s standing there, subtly flexing that he’s got this chain again. No words - he’s just letting me know he has it.”
The winner of the Big Energy Chain is the hardware caretaker between parties. If the Sixers head out on the road, the chain comes with.
During Parties at The Center, the chain hangs on the team’s VersaClimber. On the road, it’s displayed somewhere in the visiting team’s lifting area. No matter the location, it’s on display.
“The Big Energy Chain is a symbol of work ethic,” Thybulle said. “Zai (Isaiah Joe), being a rookie, being skinnier than some of the guys that have been in the league for longer, he’s taking pride in growing in that area. Winning the Big Energy Chain proves that he’s putting in the work.”
After the pair of Joe wins, Green finally notched his first Big Energy Chain victory following the Sixers’ 130-114 win over the Pacers on March 1.
“It’s not light, it’s heavy,” Green said of the chain, which he plans to wear during the team’s next Party. “It’s a subtle flex.”
Thybulle, who’s a bit less demonstrative than some of his teammates, knows he has an outside shot at earning the big energy honor. He’s just happy to be there.
“I think any time you can make getting extra work fun, and including as many people as possible, is awesome,” Thybulle said. “Even though it’s not 100% me, it’s still something that I want to be a part of. I think there’s a lot of guys who can relate to that.”
Green believes Postgame Parties and a shared pursuit of the Big Energy Chain signal a uniqueness within this year's edition of the Sixers.
“A lot of times, on other teams, I would [lift by] myself. Not many guys lifted after the games. For them to get involved now, and have fun with it - since we’re not able to bond in open, normal places - this is another way for us to bond.”
Thybulle has only played in two NBA seasons, both atypical due to the impact of the pandemic. But he agrees that this year feels different.
“Last season, to have the option to celebrate a win together - [was] nice. And to not have that this year, in the regular sense of dinners and hanging out… To create it around working out is a pretty cool alternative, and it kills two birds with one stone.
"To have created an environment like this within our team, I think, is something that’s pretty special about us.”
So, the Sixers press on, making the most of a difficult season - and, still atop the East, doing it quite well.
Whether it’s in the team’s group chat (frequently referenced by Shake Milton, Mike Scott, and Howard, among others), dancing pregame, or at Postgame Parties, the Sixers keep it moving, armored by good vibes.
“Even on our group chat - most of the teams that I’ve been on, they don’t care to participate in certain conversations,” Green explains. “But for us to have those conversations, those activities, it shows how it’s more of a college-like atmosphere-type team.
"It shows how willing, and how committed and how dedicated guys are to trying to make this work, and build friendships, relationships, and a brotherhood.”
On a Sixer team featuring a brand new coaching staff, two new starters, and lots of younger players, Kenyon says that the brotherhood and the bonds Green references are growing ahead of schedule.
“It’s something I’ve never seen done so quickly,” Kenyon said. “But it’s definitely something I’m appreciative of - because that’s the way you do win a championship.”