Think back to June 22, 2017.
The inevitable became official around 7:35 p.m. when the 76ers selected Markelle Fultz with the first pick of the NBA draft.
There was no suspense. The Sixers had their sights set on drafting him for some time. It became a foregone conclusion that they would draft the former University of Washington point guard after moving up two spots and giving up a future draft pick in a trade two days earlier.
But the lack of suspense didn't take away from the excitement of Fultz's becoming the Sixers' second No. 1 pick in as many seasons and fourth overall, joining Ben Simmons (2016), Allen Iverson (1996), and Doug Collins (1973).
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His eyes were red from shedding tears of joy as he addressed the media.
"I get a chance to take care of my family, and I get to do something a lot of kids want to do," Fultz said. "So ... like I say, I'm blessed."
The organization felt just as blessed to select the Upper Marlboro, Md. native, regarded as the most complete player in the draft. Fultz was also the best option to pair with Simmons and Joel Embiid.
"Markelle is a tremendous athlete," former team president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said at the time. "He's a tremendous young man. I think he is going to fit the culture of this organization."
All the excitement surrounding that night, coupled with how his tenure concluded, makes this one of saddest stories in Philadelphia sports history. Fultz, who played in just 33 games for the Sixers, was shipped to the Orlando Magic at Thursday's trade deadline for Jonathon Simmons, a 2019 second-round pick, and a 2020 top-20 protected first-rounder.
That's far from the trade value one would expect for a guy who was once considered the final piece to The Process.
But at this point, shedding the $9.7 million Fultz is guaranteed for next season was more important than getting equal trade value.
Fultz's shoulder saga, now in its 16th month, and the circus that came with it ultimately ended his career in Philly.
He has been sidelined Nov. 19 with what his agent, Raymond Brothers, said was thoracic outlet syndrome. Last season, he was sidelined with what the team and Brothers said was scapular muscle imbalance. Fultz missed a total of 103 games as a Sixer, dating back to last season.
However, sources close to the situation have always said Fultz's shooting woes were mental and that he has the yips.
The same sources believe Fultz was getting bad advice. They said that the anxiety that resulted from the advice – not a shoulder injury – has affected his shooting. Some observers said there is no hitch in his shot when Fultz is in a good place mentally, and that his shot is a mess during stressful times.
"I'd be lying if I (didn't say I) felt sad," Sixers coach Brett Brown said before Friday's 117-110 victory over the Denver Nuggets. "I felt that. It was two emotions I had – sad personally, selfishly I supposed that I never really felt like I got a chance to coach him. I never really felt like the city got a chance to see him. I felt sad for that."
Fultz, however, will get a second chance in Orlando.
He most likely won't play for the remainder of the season, as the Magic intend to bring him along slowly.
From a basketball standpoint, Orlando might be a better situation for him. The team intends to make him the point guard as opposed to remaining here where he deferred to Simmons. Fultz will also be in a smaller market where there will be fewer distractions. Nor will he have to deal with the pressure that comes with being a first overall pick. Fultz's job is to just fit in and play basketball.
Dario Saric, who the Sixers traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves in November, thinks Fultz will do well in Orlando.
"Obviously, Markelle needed a fresh start. He couldn't find himself with Sixers to play," Saric told the Orlando Sentinel following Thursday's game against the Magic. "In my opinion, they (Sixers) play different basketball than Markelle needs. Markelle is best with the ball, and I think the opportunity to come here in Orlando to have the ball in his hands is just great."
Like the Sixers did back on June 22, 2017, Orlando believes Fultz has a bright future.
"His size, his skill level, his vision, his competitiveness. This guy has the whole package," Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman told reporters during halftime of Friday's game.
Time will tell if the Magic feel the same way a season from now.