The 76ers lost more than just an elite defensive threat and two-way player when Robert Covington was traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was also a man of the people, hyping up the crowd at the most crucial moments of home games. He was the leader of a Frosty revolution.
If you haven’t been to the Wells Fargo Center, and if you aren’t familiar with the Frosty Freeze Out, here’s what you need to know:
- In the second half of home games, if an opponent misses consecutive free throws in a single trip to the line, everyone in the building can head over to Wendy’s and get a free frosty.
- The crowd absolutely loves this promotion. They scream and cheer and wave their hands or any other prop provided to them to distract players and collect their prize.
- Maybe the most important part of the Freeze Out was Covington’s role as conductor of the hype train.
Covington took it upon himself to become the unofficial leader of the second-half promotion. Most fans will remember T.J. McConnell being a big fan of Covington’s Freeze Out antics. But in the beginning, Covington was alone in his pursuit.
“I wanted to give the crowd something to look forward to and get involved with them,” Covington said. “The first days, T.J. looked over and was like, ‘Sit down. What are you doing?’ Then you see as it kept going, and I kept getting into it, then someone would miss the first free throw, and T.J. would look down, and I’d already be ready to stand up, and him and everyone would be like, ‘Yeah Cov! Yeah Cov!' "
It was an act that endeared Covington to the fans. In those moments, he was one of them. Whether he was in the game or on the bench, when an opposing player would miss a free throw, Covington’s attention turned to the stands. His arms outstretched, he would even lose his spot in a free throw lane.
He was so far away from the paint many times, urging the fans to make noise, that the officials made him wait behind the three-point line until the shooter was finished.
There’s been plenty of speculation about what will happen when Covington returns to the Wells Fargo Center on Jan. 15 for the first time since being traded. When asked, he made it clear that he will not be cheering with the crowd to get his teammates to miss a free throw. He said he gets on their case about missing free throws, so it would go against everything he stands for.
“I’ve seen people saying, ‘Cov would be the ultimate GOAT if he would come back and purposefully in the second half miss two of them,’ " he said. “And I’m like there’s no way I’m going to forcefully miss two in a row.”
No way? Really? What if the Wolves were to go on a run, and they’re blowing out the Sixers by 25 points, and there’s a minute left?
“I don’t think I’d be in the game at that point,” he said with a laugh. “But OK, if we were up big, and I was about to go out, and it came down to it, would I do it? Probably. Ok, probably."
Covington won’t get the chance Tuesday, as he’s expected to miss the game with an ankle injury.
There was a void when Covington left Philadelphia, and McConnell and player development coach Tyler Lashbrook, went on a search to fill that void the best they could.
McConnell first tried to enlist Furkan Korkmaz. But Korkmaz wasn’t into it, and according to McConnell, he didn’t have what it takes. Then they came to rookie Shake Milton.
“I saw Cov doing it, but I didn’t really know what it was about,” Milton said. “After he was traded, Tyler and T.J. were telling me to get up and to get into it, and I like it. It’s cool. The fans seem to like it, they get really pumped for it."
It took a little coaxing at first, but Milton has embraced his new role. There’s no denying, though, that Covington was in a league of his own and will always be remembered as the first.
Covington did want to set the record straight about one thing.
“Everybody thinks that I got the Frosty from the Freeze Out, and I’ve never had one. I never went and got one,” he said.