Mike Scott was sitting in a conference room on Tuesday morning surrounded by a dozen or so reporters and a couple of platters of donuts with his name iced onto them, and as he talked about the guy who got Scott’s name tattooed on his rib cage and the wedding he crashed and the one lady who asked him to show up at work and surprise her husband, the Sixers forward seemed to appreciate that he was in the midst of another in a long line of beautifully absurd moments that traces back to a hotel in Charlotte on an early February night.
It was less than seven months ago that Scott and Clippers teammate Tobias Harris retreated to Harris’ room after learning that the two of them had been dealt to the Sixers in a surprising trade-deadline deal. For a lot of players, the development would have greeted with some serious trepidation -- the Clippers had just signed him as a free agent that July and were in playoff position at the moment -- but Scott found himself energized by the thought of moving back to the East Coast and joining a team that was thinking much bigger than a postseason berth. That spirit of possibility only increased when, according to Scott, 7-foot-3 teammate Boban Marjanovic came bounding down the hallway and announced in his thick Serbian accent, “I’m coming here, too.”
Where others may have seen a midseason inconvenience, not to mention the worst part of winter in the gloomy Northeast, Scott saw an opportunity to start fresh. After spending the first six years of his career with well-defined roles in Atlanta and Washington, he never felt right in L.A. A 40 percent three-point shooter in the two previous seasons, Scott had knocked down less than 36 percent of his shots from long range over the Clippers’ first 46 games, a stretch of three of four games in which he did not log a single minute. As he prepared for the flight to Philadelphia, he reflected on a conversation he’d had with Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who impressed upon him the need to find other ways of contributing when his shot wasn’t falling.
“I feel I didn’t play well in L.A., and I think for the most part it was on me,” Scott said. “I was still trying to figure it out. When I got here, I said, ‘[The heck with it], I am going to ball-out and try to do what Doc says.' Do the little things and see what happens.”
As fate would have it, he was headed to a city that appreciates a “bleep-it” mentality like no place on Earth. After initially catching the fans’ eye with the hockey jerseys that he wore to the arena on game days, Scott quickly proved that he could provide the Sixers’ rotation with an off-the-bench punch that it had sorely lacked. In his first 24 games, he averaged 24 minutes per night, shooting .383 from three-point range and pulling down 3.5 rebounds per night. But it was his performance after the whistle during a critical late-season game against the Bucks that made him a legend. When Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe attempted to throw a ball at Sixers center Joel Embiid, Scott inserted himself in the proceedings, flinging the ball back in Bledsoe’s direction, later explaining in a postgame press conference that “I ain’t no [expletive].”
Two weeks later, in a dogfight of a playoff bout with the Brooklyn Nets, Scott cemented his legend by draining a go-ahead three-pointer with 19 seconds remaining that lifted the Sixers to a 3-1 series lead. Having already amassed a cult following on Twitter that dubbed itself the “Mike Scott Hive,” the 30-year-old veteran was quickly made aware of a fan who celebrated his shot by getting a Hive logo tattooed on his side. Although the Sixers would go on to lose to the Raptors in the Eastern Conference semis at the buzzer of Game 7, the doubt surrounding Scott’s future had been erased.
During the exit interview process, general manager Elton Brand and coach Brett Brown made it clear that they wanted the forward back in the fold for the 2019-20 season. Shortly after the start of free agency, the two sides agreed on a two-year, $9.8 million contract that gives Scott the most stability he has enjoyed since his early years with the Bucks. Later that month, while in town for a hip-hop show, Scott responded to an invitation from a Twitter follower by dropping by a wedding close to his hotel, where he danced and took pictures with fans.
“They see I am a regular person,” Scott said. “I just play basketball. Keep it honest, be real, stay genuine. ... I can’t really explain it, just be yourself. I think they can relate to that.”
With a revamped roster and a wide-open Eastern Conference, Scott has an opportunity to carve himself onto the Mount Rushmore of Philadelphia role players. It seems that every championship team has a player with his skill set: Hit big shots, bring some attitude off the bench, apologize to no one.
“Some athletes they are stuck up, bougie -- I don’t like none of that,” Scott said. “I just try to be myself.”
Really, it’s hard to picture him being anybody else.