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New Sixers get Jiggy Wit It

You never know how new ownership is going to work out.

Change brings opportunity but it doesn't guarantee growth or the ability to move forward.

In the case of the Philadelphia 76ers, however, change was more than needed. An afterthought in the crowded Philadelphia sports market, the Sixers were hamstrung as a part of the Comcast-Spectacor empire and its leader, the hockey obsessed Ed Snider.

That's why Sixers fans, what's left of them anyway, are celebrating today when the sale of the team to a group headed by billionaire Joshua Harris was officially announced at the Cathedral of Philadelphia basketball -- The Palestra.

"It is with great pride and much excitement that I stand here in The Palestra," said Harris, a graduate from the University of Pennsylvania's prestigious Wharton School of Business.

A 46-year-old billionaire, Harris leads a new ownership team that includes fellow Wharton Grad David Blitzer, former NBA player agent and Sacramento Kings executive Jason Levien and Hollywood stars Will Smith and Jada Pinkett- Smith.

"My partners and I are thrilled to have become owners of the Sixers," said Harris. "It is an honor to be a part of this storied franchise -- we have a lot of work to do but we have a rich history, a strong foundation and a bright future."

Harris then took care of some business, naming Philly native Adam Aron as the team's new CEO and the guy who will be handling day-to-day business operations, as well as announcing that general manager Ed Stefanski won't be back, a foregone conclusion since Stefanski had been relegated to getting Rod Thorn's coffee once the Sixers brought Thorn in as team president.

"Being named CEO of the Philadelphia 76ers is truly a dream come true," Aron said. "Having grown up in Abington, I have always been a fan of this team. I'm excited about celebrating and building on the extraordinary heritage of the 76ers, the third winningest team in NBA history. We will work tirelessly to make Philadelphia sports fans proud."

The real surprise was getting Smith and his wife on board. A West Philly native and long-time Sixers fan, Smith is a true A-List celebrity that will bring real star power to an organization that spent the past decade playing the red-headed step child to the town's hockey team thanks to Snider.

To Flyers fans, Snider is a legend -- a never say die owner who will do anything to win hockey's biggest prize. While the Stanley Cup hasn't taken up residence in Philadelphia in nearly 40 years, everyone agrees it hasn't been due to a lack of effort.

Heck after yet another underachieving season in 2010-11, Snider and his lieutenants remade the hockey team yet again. History and Snider's track record say the Flyers will come up short in the end, but things like hesitation, inactivity and passivity are never the reason.

To Sixers fans, however, Snider was a pariah. An absentee buffoon of an owner happy to collect the riches of the NBA's massive television contract while ignoring the product he put on the floor.

To be fair, it's a lot more difficult to make a major move in the NBA than the NHL. The rigid construct of the NBA's salary cap is one of the major reasons owners are currently locking out the players in hopes of revamping a "broken system."

Still, no matter how you spin it, Snider was a colossal failure as an NBA owner.

Under Comcast-Spectacor, the Sixers did reach the NBA Finals in 2001, but understand Pat Croce was running the team then. The charismatic Croce left the organization a scant six weeks after the '01 Finals after losing a power play to Snider.

Since then, Snider has held the franchise hostage. Philadelphia hasn't advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2003, and it hasn't recorded a winning season since 2004-05.

Meanwhile, the team has ranked toward the bottom in the league in attendance over the past four seasons, bottoming out in 2010-11 when they ranked last in building capacity, playing to 72.6 percent of capacity and averaging just 14,751 fans per game.

Unable to actually talk basketball because of the lockout (other than lauding Thorn and head coach Doug Collins), the new ownership group took aim at recapturing some of the team's disgruntled fan base, unveiling a new team slogan "Passionate. Intense. Proud," as well as establishing the website www.newsixersowner.com for fan suggestions.

But the group's most daring decision was the almost unprecedented move of slashing ticket prices on individual game tickets on almost 9,000 seats for every home game.

Ticket prices will be cut by "50 percent or more" according to Aron.

In the long run gimmicks aren't going to cut it and the Sixers must produce on the floor, something that seems more likely now that the franchise has an infusion of people that actually care about the team and the sport.

Of course any change, even a change for the better, is always going to be accompanied by some drawbacks and some discomfort.

But don't tell that to Sixers fans today -- They are too busy 'Getting Jiggy Wit it.'