Mike Scott hasn’t completed a full season for the Sixers yet. He’s not their best player. He’s not in the starting five, and usually not the first one off the bench. Yet Philly embraced the power forward almost immediately upon his arrival from the L.A. Clippers in February — and for a growing group of fans, he’s a superstar.
Fans started to notice Scott just three weeks after he landed in Philly during a game against the Portland Trailblazers. Scott moved in quickly to protect teammate Ben Simmons — picking up a technical foul in the process — when it looked like Trailblazers center Enes Kantor was going to fight Simmons.
“We were like, ‘Oh my God. This man is ready to go to war for you!’ " said Zainab Javed, 26, who attended that game at the Wells Fargo Center with her friends. "So that was, I think, love at first sight.”
Alonzo Jones saw that technical foul and tweeted that Scott “needs to be a Sixer for life." Javed responded: “#MikeScottHive. You in?”
Javed is originally from Virginia, like Scott, and came to Philadelphia to work as the digital director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. After the 2016 election, she turned to sports to deal with a sense of despair that she was feeling. "What was happening nationally was just having a bearing on me, and I didn’t have a life outside of what I do for work,” Javed said. She started following the Eagles first, then the Sixers. She was home.
“My friend got me into the Sixers and the personalities," she said. "Everybody involved, people are just, they’re exciting. They’re fun. Everybody has a common goal.”
Matt del Rio, lifelong Sixers fan and a blogger for the Sixers site Liberty Ballers, also fell for Scott’s charm. A few weeks after the Portland game when Scott came to Simmons’ defense, Scott fell onto a woman in the crowd when he leaped for a loose ball. “She was drinking an alcoholic beverage," del Rio recalled, "and he took a sip and then went back on the court. That was the most Philadelphia thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life.”
Del Rio tweeted that if he reached 1,000 followers that day, he’d get a Scott tattoo. Spike Eskin, the cohost of the popular Sixers’ podcast The Rights to Ricky Sanchez, shared the tweet. “Within eight minutes I went from 600 to like 1,200 followers,” del Rio said.
On April 30, Matt’s 27th birthday, he got a “Mike Scott Hive” tattoo on his rib cage — with a ninja headband over the ‘o,’ similar to the one Scott wears.
National outlets picked up on the tattoo story, and it made its way to Scott, who at that point had become aware of the strength of his Hive. It seemed to reach a peak in April, at a postgame news conference after Scott again came to the defense of one of his teammates, this time star center Joel Embiid, during an altercation with an opposing player. His fans erupted in pride with Scott’s answer to a reporter’s question about why he stood up for Embiid: “That’s how I am. I ain’t no bitch."
And this is where the Mike Scott Hive shows its strength beyond being just another online fan group.
One of the people who gravitated toward Scott because of his news conference comment was Hive member Erica Boland. The 30-year-old graphic designer made a T-shirt with Scott’s phrase on it. She made the shirt for herself, not thinking anyone would want to buy one. But she soon received a message from the Sixers’ front office that Scott wanted one — and wanted Boland to deliver it.
“We got to sit courtside during shootaround for Game Three of the [Toronto] Raptors series, so that was wild," Boland recalled of attending a playoff game with her husband at Scott’s invitation. “We also have twins, and we don’t have a ton of money, so we can’t really afford to go to games that often, and the ones that we can go to are in the last row of the stadium. So, sitting on the Sixers bench and watching shootaround and being so close to the players that we watch almost every other night during the season was so special.”
The magic of the Mike Scott Hive is that while it started online, it reached people’s personal lives — in real life. Javed and other fans organized Mike Scott Hive tailgates, and people from all over the country flew in. Now, when Javed returns to Philly, she crashes on the couches of other Hive members. When Scott announced a school supply drive, the Hive raised $3,000 in two days. He even crashed a wedding of a Hive member after a groomsman tweeted him the address.
In an interview after a recent practice, Scott said he’s embraced his new city and its fans the same way the Hive has embraced him.
“Being [in] Philly, you know, hard-nosed, gritty, savage ... and just, you know, go out for the people. And they just gravitated toward it,” he said.
Scott said he remembers feeling humbled when he learned of del Rio’s Mike Scott Hive tattoo.
“First I was like, man, that’s crazy," Scott said. “It’s real, you know? I mean, yeah, you can get it removed, but it’s a tattoo. Tattoo’s pretty serious. So for people to go out and get a Mike Scott Hive tattoo or get a bee with the headband, ... it just shows their support. And, you know, they’re really about this life.”
More than the tattoos and the memes, the most important thing that the Hive does is give a space for people to belong, said Rochelle Onwulata, 28. She’s a regulatory compliance specialist who graduated with an MBA in May and was looking for new friends, since her friends from school had moved off campus. A Sixers fan, she got into the Hive online, and over the summer decided to attend a Hive tailgate before a Phillies game. (Yes, Mike Scott inspires his fans to tailgate before games in sports in which he doesn’t even play.)
“It took me like three times to convince myself to actually go, because why would I ever drive down to the stadium to tailgate with a bunch of people that I don’t actually know?" she said. “But it was probably the best decision I made this year.” She made a bunch of new friends, too, “all started by our same love for Mike Scott."
The Hive is organizing its largest tailgate yet. The event will stretch before, during, and after the game against Miami Heat on Nov. 23. Hive members have collected cool items as raffle prizes and are waiting to hear from Scott about what charity he’d like them to donate the proceeds to.
Having that shared experience is really what the Hive is all about. In a time when many people are feeling isolated and alone, Scott found a way to connect people by just being himself.
“People have come up to me after the tailgate," Javed said, “and said that finally they feel like they belong.”