Alex Bay and Bobby Amarant
Tuesday night, Ben Detrick from The Ringer dropped an absolute bombshell on the NBA community, revealing with investigative analysis that Bryan Colangelo, the Philadelphia 76ers’ president of basketball operations, had been secretly operating five Twitter accounts which he has used to criticize currents and former Sixers players, debate the decisions of the coaching staff, and disclose nonpublic medical information and team strategy. The accounts were discovered by an anonymous source working in the artificial intelligence field. The source investigated suspicious tweets from the same accounts and used an open source data analysis tool to compare the accounts side by side. The results were staggering, and it led to finding 5 accounts (@phila1234567, @AlVic40117560 aka Eric jr, @HonestaA34197118 aka HonestAbe, @Enoughunkownso1 aka enoughunkownsources, and @s_bonhams aka Still Balling) with strong ties to Colangelo. In The Ringer’s article, Detrick notes “All five follow accounts tied to Sixers players, members of the Philly front office, and beat reporters who cover the team; Toronto Raptors writers; Canadian high school basketball; and University of Chicago basketball. They discuss the same topics, use strikingly similar phrasing, and, at times, have tweeted out identical media images. Some of those shared attributes were odd, such as a distaste for beards and ‘unknown sources.’ According to the source’s findings, the three newest accounts followed 75 accounts in common—roughly half of their total respective follows—with another 52 accounts followed by two of the three”. These accounts include several player on the University of Chicago basketball team, which Colangelo’s son is a part of. After Detrick reached to the Sixers front office for comment, 3 of the accounts mysteriously switched from public to private. Later in the day, Colangelo admitted to being the owner of @phila1234567, but denied any connection to the most active account (the Eric jr one). The accounts contain insults directed at Sixers players, mainly Joel Embiid and Markelle Fultz. There are several criticisms of 76ers coach Brett Brown and former-GM Sam Hinkie. At the same time, the accounts had countless praise for Colangelo, even with the general disdain from Sixers fans.
The situation gets odd when the accounts firmly defend minor criticisms about Colangelo, specifically the collar of his shirts.
How suspicious is it that an account with strong ties to Colangelo is so quick to defend such a measly comment about him? In addition to the already damning evidence, @SixersAdam attempted to reset the passwords on three of the burner accounts, finding that all of them were connected to a phone number ending with 91.
On Wednesday night, it was discovered that Colangelo’s wife, Barbara Bottini, has a phone number ending in 91.
This is further evidence proving the accounts’ connections to Colangelo. “They all have a pattern of likes, follows, and tweets which are EXTRAORDINARILY similar,” claims the anonymous internet vigilante who uncovered this scandal about the two time Executive of the Year. The cyber-sleuth asserts his assuredness, stating, “To me, there is no conceivable world where that is not Bryan Colangelo, himself. Not his wife, not his son, not his dad.”
Some people may question whether or not this is an important issue. So what if Bryan Colangelo is insecure about his collar size? However, Colangelo was allegedly discussing team strategies, medical information, and information about the personal lives of players within these tweets. A month before the Sixers traded the 3rd pick of the 2017 draft as well as one of the 2018 Lakers pick or the 2019 Kings pick (with protections on each) for the first pick of the 2017 draft, ultimately becoming Markelle Fultz, the Still Balling account liked a tweet supporting a trade for the 3rd and Lakers pick for the 1st pick of the draft. Had front offices around the league known of this, the Sixers trade strategy and leverage could have been compromised. Fultz particularly had some private information leaked, as seen in the following tweets from the Still Balling account.
Sixers Superstar Joel Embiid as well as former Sixers bigs Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor were also attacked by these burners, including medical and trade leaks about Okafor.
Strangely, Miami Heat great Dwyane Wade and his wife, Gabrielle Union, were also targeted by maybe-Colangelo in reference to the Beijing Olympics, where both Bryan Colangelo and his father were known to have been.
The accounts also show suspicion due to the strong anti-Sam Hinkie sentiment expressed in several of the tweets.
As previously mentioned, 3 of the accounts are possibly linked directly to Colangelo’s wife. This has led many Sixers fans to change their sentiments about mainly the Eric jr account (one of the ones tied to the 91 phone number). Twitter user @kevtaddei noted “Tweets from Eric Jr.’s account: included mom smiley faces 🙂 and ;), censored the word “butt”, had an obsession with @BrianMikeJacobs and hooking him up with her daughter, had a big issue with Embiid being shirtless, live tweeted sons Bball games, had inside knowledge from BC”. People also noticed that one of the accounts followed an Italian account that tweets Bible verses, and Colangelo’s wife is Italian.
After the story broke, NBA Twitter erupted into flames, with many popular faces in the NBA adding their input.
Joel Embiid let out a series of all-time funny tweets about the situation, expressing his shock in some of the things said in some of the tweets from the burner accounts. NBA star C.J. McCollum poked fun at the situation, playfully inquiring about whether Embiid was still happy in Philly.
Regardless of how this investigation turns out, this is surely one of the most wild and entertaining NBA scandals ever. For now, Colangelo is innocent until proven guilty, but it is difficult to imagine a future in which he keeps his front office role with the Sixers. It is certain that local Sixers fans, along with millions of other NBA fans, will be waiting eagerly to see the final results of this investigation.
https://twitter.com/phila1234567 (admitted to this one, accused)
https://twitter.com/AlVic40117560 (Eric jr, accused)
https://twitter.com/s_bonhams (Still Balling, active as recently as May 22)