It’s probably safe to say that 76ers guard T.J. McConnell is one of the most popular athletes in Pennsylvania right now, and that’s mostly because he kept Philadelphia alive in the NBA playoffs this week.
With the Sixers trailing 3-0 in their series against the Celtics, McConnell erupted for 19 points as Philly staved off elimination with a 103-92 win over Boston on Monday.
McConnell celebrated the win on Tuesday by joining “The Dan Patrick Show” for an interview that covered everything from basketball to why he stopped cheering for the Steelers for several years, and yes, that was a topic that actually came up.
You see, McConnell is from Pittsburgh, so of course he was a Steelers fan growing up. However, he hasn’t been a Steelers fan his entire life, and that’s because he dumped the team for a few years after meeting Ben Roethlisberger. Apparently, McConnell had such an unpleasant experience that he decided to become the fan of another team.
“I met Roethlisberger awhile ago when I was little, but it wasn’t too good of an interaction,” McConnell said. “I respect him as a player, but he wasn’t exactly the nicest guy.”
Mason Rudolph might.
As it turned out, the young McConnell was so upset by the Roethlisberger meeting that he decided he didn’t want to be a Steelers fan anymore.
“I stopped rooting for the Steelers for a little bit after that,” McConnell said.
So who did he start cheering for? Was it Pennsylvania’s other team, the Eagles?
“No,” McConnell said. “I was a little petty and rooted for [a team in the AFC North] and then I reverted back to [being] a Steelers fan. I was a Cincinnati Bengals fan for a little bit.”
Of course, being a Bengals fan isn’t easy, which is something McConnell quickly realized.
“They weren’t ever any good when I rooted for them,” the point guard said.
McConnell noted that this all happened after the Steelers won Super Bowl XL in February 2006, which means he likely jumped on the Bengals bandwagon just in time for a disastrous three-year period where the team never had a winning record (2006-08). Apparently, three years of watching the Bengals play was enough to get McConnell back on the Steelers bandwagon.
As for his current feelings about Roethlisberger, the Sixers guard pointed out that he wasn’t too upset about the meeting anymore, because he kind of understood why Big Ben wasn’t the “nicest guy” during the event.
“It was in sixth grade. We at were at a ‘Hoops for a Cure’ thing at my high school,” McConnell said. “He was getting bombarded left and right, so I completely understand.”
The moral of the story here is either “be nice to everybody” or “never become a Bengals fan.” You pick.