February 17, 2020
It had only ever been rumors and stories shared online. Sometimes there pictures or videos. But they were always legendary.
There was the time he raced a random fan who challenged him on Twitter. The time he met a bunch of fans at Popeye's to try their new chicken sandwich. There have been Nerf wars and crashed weddings and sightings at underground rap battles. There have been tailgates in his honor and entire nights at Sixers games dedicated to him.
And every single time, Mike Scott is in his element.
The Sixers forward and the namesake of the ever-growing Mike Scott Hive has become more than just your typical NBA role player since arriving in Philadelphia just over a year ago. He's become a cult hero. And even he is sometimes left scratching his head over how he wound up in a place where people are tattooing his name or likeness on themselves and seem to care as much about Mike Scott the person as they do about Mike Scott the basketball player. Maybe more.
That love hasn't been lost on Scott, which is why on Sunday night, during the NBA All-Star Game, the Virginia native and the folks at Red Bull Hoops decided to host a Mike Scott Hive Appreciation Party for 100 of Scott's biggest fans at North Bowl in Northern Liberties.
At all the past Mike Scott Hive events, Scott was the on the receiving end of all the praise. But on Sunday night, Scott wanted to show his appreciation for his fans, including the founder of the Hive, Zainab Javed, who has been the driving force behind the Hive and was responsible for planning the previous tailgates, watch parties and even Mike Scott Hive Night at the Sixers, all of which have helped raise money for charity.
This time around, however, it was Scott and Red Bull returning the favor to Zainab and the Hive, with a night full of free food, drinks, games, music from Sixers DJ, DJ Ghost, and even some giveaways from Mitchell & Ness.
"This was a surprise appreciation event hosted by Mike Scott and Red Bull Hoops to show how much they appreciate us," Zainab said. "We had watch parties. We've raised $6,300 for charity through The Hive. And we love Mike. He is one of the most incredible people, and I feel like I kind of exposed him. He has this tough guy image, but he's the nicest guy alive. He's so kind. He takes time to take a picture with every single person."
With a week off for the All-Star break, Scott could've done anything with his time. But the 31-year-old felt it was important to give back to his fans.
"I mean, I would've been in Philly either way," Scott said with a chuckle. "I went on a little trip with the family to the Bahamas, but for the most part I wanted to be here and work out and get prepared for the last part of this season, so why not enjoy fans who appreciate who you are — and I also appreciate them — and have some fun at the bowling alley, conversate, watch the game, bowl, and just have fun.
"I don't feel like this is work for me. I just feel like I'm vibing with the fans and having fun."
And vibing with the fans is exactly what Scott did.
Arriving a little before 8 p.m., Scott entered the upper level at North Bowl and made his way around the party, stopping to chat and take photos with everyone there. Everyone. He rolled a couple of frames, and adjusted nicely after a gutter-ball on the first attempt. He shot some pool — and would've lost twice in a row if not for his opponent scratching on the eight ball both times.
There was also a slightly different side of Scott, one that might not jive with his emotionless, assassin-like demeanor on the court, on display at the Hive party: Mike Scott the family man.
Scott's fiancée and two young children joined the Sixers forward at North Bowl for the event, and the highlight of the night might have been his son's dance moves, which were immediately followed by a mean mug once he realized everyone was watching, proving the apple doesn't fall very far from the tree.
Scott had his own roped off VIP section in the middle of the floor, but you'd be hard pressed to find him using it. Instead, the tallest guy in the room made his way around the party and mingled with fans like he was just any other person in attendance.
And at times, that's exactly what it felt like. More like a reunion of friends than a gathering of strangers. Because, in some ways, it was.
"We had this after the Nov. 23 tailgate and after the Hive Night Game [in January]. He's just there with every single person," Zainab said. "He did not leave. He's tired — this is right after a game. And I just love him so much and the amount he cares. And his team cares too, so much that they held an appreciation night for us, and it's just incredible. This just doesn't happen, right?
"The social movement and the way people care — and the way Mike cares — that's the most important thing. Like, we loved him, but he loved us back. And him throwing this appreciation party and bowling and getting people out here, this is a blast and people are having a great time."
For Scott, it's easy to share the love, as he's never experienced anything like this in his previous three stops in the NBA.
"It's pretty cool," Scott said of his year-long love affair with the Philly fans. "I spent five years in Atlanta, I enjoyed my time there. We had some good teams there. One year in D.C. and I feel like the fans took after me too. L.A. was pretty weird. I just wasn't good so it was just a bad time there.
"But ever since I got here, the fans have always been behind me, good or bad. And you see tonight, people come out and show appreciation. And it just shows that Philly — you know, they get a bad rap sometimes as a fan base, but from my personal view, they've always been good to me."
It's this kind of obsessive fandom that has also led to Scott releasing his own app, making him one of the only — if not the only — NBA players ever to do so. Designed by Mike Kane, who approached Scott after last season about developing his own app, the Mike Scott app allows users to shop for exclusive merchandise, like a black t-shirt with a red and blue Liberty Bell design and Scott's signature "I ain't no bitch" slogan written across the front, or play mini games where you'll soon be able to compete against other members to win autographed memorabilia.
Without the fans to support him, however, this never would've been a possibility.
It's honestly impressive that such a bond can grow between player and fans in such a short amount of time. As Scott has said in the past, he only first became aware of the Hive after hitting the game-winner in Game 4 of the Sixers' first-round series against the Nets last postseason.
From there, the Hive just grew organically.
"I mean, people were already supporting me since the trade, but especially after that shot, I could just kind of groove. And then Zainab and Erica B., people like that started [it], tattoos, it just kind of started getting crazy and I took a liking too it. I raced a guy, had a Nerf war with kids, so I mean, I appreciate it. It's kind of dope."
At halftime of the All-Star Game, Scott took to the mic to thank the Hive, and specifically Zainab. But, not to be outdone, Z had a surprise of her own for Scott: black and yellow Nike sneakers signed by everyone in attendance.
[WARNING: Video contains some NSFW language.]
And Scott wore them for the entire rest of the night.
the @mikescott_hive presented @mikescott with some cute 🐝-colored shoes signed by the hive. i don’t know why my face always looks like this. (📸: @colinkerrigan @redbullhoops) pic.twitter.com/JIZ2Q0935P— Zainab Javed (@zrjaved) February 17, 2020
The Hive isn't the only thing that's grown organically. The same can be said for Zainab's fandom, as she's only been a Philly sports fan for a few years, but has already found herself as the honorary Queen of the Hive. From Northern Virginia, Zainab only lived in Philly for a few years for work (in politics). Following the 2016 election, Z says she found herself in a bit of a depression and began going to the bar next door on Sundays to work. As you might suspect, it was filled with Eagles fans.
"I started going to the bar next door just to work every Sunday and what I found was the Eagles community," Zainab remembers. "Every week, I just kept going back, and the community I found there was so incredible. And then after that, they won the Super Bowl and I needed more, and my friend introduced me to the Sixers. The narratives that they have, just the most incredible stories, and I love them. So that is how I became a Sixers fan, it's just my friend introduced me to them and I kept watching and watching and watching, and now I watch 82 games. It sucks.
"I have so much stress. Like, my heart, I have problems."
That's probably not an uncommon feeling for Sixers fans these days after the team's up and down performance heading into the break, which eventually led to some boos for All-Star center Joel Embiid, before he quickly won the fans back with a dominant performance in the team's win over the Clippers last week.
For a few minutes during his busy night, Scott was kind enough to answer some questions from the media in attendance. Here's a look at what he had to say about the Sixers, who return to the court on Thursday night to host the Nets.
On where the team goes after the All-Star break following that big win over the Clippers last week that came on the heels of some internal drama:
"Just build on that win. Hopefully everyone comes back from the All-Star break with the mindset of being better than the first 50-something games and then just finish out strong and get ready for the playoffs. You know, just leaving all the soap opera stuff in the past. I really don't pay that much attention to it anyway, I just go out there and play. Hopefully everyone will just come back and be prepared for these last 30-something games and playoffs and just don't worry about anything else."
On the team's "bully ball" construction and showing more toughness down the stretch:
"Yeah, definitely. Myself included, I've got to get back to that mentality I had when I first got here. That's what I've been thinking about this whole All-Star break, these last 30-something games and getting ready for the playoffs, I've got to get back to that mentality I had when I first got here. Just playing hard, diving, getting scrappy. Not dirty, but if need be. I feel like every team needs that. At the end of the day, I'm a hooper. I want to go out there and hoop and score and get buckets and all that, but of course every team needs a physical person who has that mentality to get their elbows dirty."
On if guys getting away for the break will help them focus on basketball and forget the drama?
"Yeah, just get refreshed and come back, leave all that other stuff that we've seen in the news and media behind. This is our team now. It is what it is, so we've just got to figure it out. You can't get caught up in the fans, or boos. At the end of the day, the fans, they just want you to play better. They don't hate us. I always say it's like playing FIFA or [NBA] 2K or Madden. If I'm playing with the Redskins and somebody didn't catch the ball, I'm like, 'Aw, he's trash. Get him out the game. He's trash.' I mean, I don't hate him, that's my team, I still love him. But yeah, just don't get caught up in that stuff. Come back after the All-Star break and just get ready, get prepared for the last 30 games and playoffs."
Of course, wins like the one over the Clippers will make all that drama disappear in a heartbeat. And that starts against the Nets.
For those who also pay attention to NBA fashion trends, it's worth pointing out that for Thursday night's game, Scott plans to start wearing hockey sweaters again for his pregame outfit, much like he did last season. That look drew so much attention from fans that several even wound up sending in jerseys from local high schools — and ever since, Scott's received close to 50 jerseys and countless questions about when he's going to start wearing them again.
And the jersey donations haven't stopped. One fan even presented one to Scott at North Bowl that he added to his collection, which, like his Hive, seems to never stop growing.
It's been just over a year since Mike Scott has arrived in Philly. He's done a lot, both on and off the court, but his relationship with his fans is something unique that most athletes will go their entire life without having. There had been the stories circulating the web about how Scott interacts with those fans and why they've embraced.
On Sunday night I finally got to experience it firsthand. And I think Scott himself probably said it best: "It's kind of dope."
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