By Peter Gleason
If Kawhi Leonard is seriously thinking about playing for the Sixers — or, more importantly — if he is on the fence about us, former Philly mayor and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell has given him something to think about, in this open letter originally written for the Daily News:
Dear Kawhi Leonard:
I’m writing to you because I think you’re a great basketball player and a very good person. You epitomize the superstar who is blessed with enormous talent but is willing to play within a team concept.
I know you grew up in Southern California, and my comments about that part of the country are not meant to disparage it but rather to give you a fair and dispassionate comparison between there and what I hope will be your new city, Philadelphia.
There are many reasons why I think you should choose Philadelphia, but perhaps the most important is our fans — our people and their love for the city. Our fans are the best. They support our teams through good and bad. They’re incredibly passionate and they know their stuff.
Consider when the Eagles visited the Los Angeles Rams this year. There were more Eagles fans in the stadium than Ram fans. The passion the fans have about our sports teams goes to their love of Philadelphia. Once a Philadelphian, always a Philadelphian.
The best evidence I can give you of that is the conduct of two famous LA residents who grew up in Philadelphia. I don’t know if you’ve seen them, but check out those videos depicting Kobe Bryant and Will Smith and their love for the Eagles. It’s been decades since either of them lived in Philly, but Philly is in their blood.
So, please read over this list, below and when you do, I’m sure you’ll decide to come here. In LA, you’ll always be that guy who helps LeBron James, but in Philadelphia, you, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will be equal stars who will bring the city its first pro basketball championship in 35 years:
— Philadelphia is a city of great historic significance with iconic national landmarks such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. LA has the “Hollywood” sign.
— Philadelphia has great leaders who built this country, including Benjamin Franklin; LA has Mickey Mouse.
— Philadelphia has buildings of architectural significance that date back to the 1700s. As author Delia Ephron says, “In Los Angeles, by the time you’re 35, you’re older than most of the buildings.”
— Philadelphia was the first planned city with a grid laid out by its founder William Penn. The great author Dorothy Parker described Los Angeles as 72 suburbs “in search of a city.”
— Philadelphia has moderate weather with all four seasons represented. LA has earthquakes, wildfires and mudslides.
— In 1792, Philadelphia was the home of the first circus held at 12th and Market Street. LA has a nightly circus at Hollywood and Vine.
— The first zoo was founded in Philadelphia in 1879. LA has a nightly zoo at Hollywood and Vine.
— Philadelphia has historic streets Elfreth’s Alley, the longest continuously occupied street in America. LA has Hollywood and Vine.
— Philadelphia has the biggest and most beautiful municipal park in the country — the 8,900-acre Fairmount Park. LA has the La Brea Tar Pits.
— Philadelphia has the longest continuously operating synagogue, Mikveh Israel, which was founded in 1740. LA has Larry David.
— Philly and LA are both great restaurant cities, though we get the nod in most surveys. But our junk food is clearly superior. How could you compare a Pat’s cheesesteak to a Pink’s hotdog?
— Philly is considered one of the greatest walkable cities in the world. In LA, most people drive to get to the bathroom.
— Philly is a great port city. We import 310,000 tons of grapes, enough to make 233 million bottles of wine. No way LA can match this.
So, there it is, Kawhi. I believe the choice is obvious. Do you want to come to the “birthplace of America” or do you want to play in front of fans who are more interested in having their picture taken with Jack Nicholson than they are in what’s happening on the court, in a city that’s known as “La La Land”?