On Tuesday, fantasies became reality in Philadelphia as the 76ers took another step toward completing The Process with a series-clinching Game 5 victory over the Miami Heat to advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2012, in front of a crowd that included local rapper Meek Mill, who had been released from prison on bail just hours before tip-off.
Meek's legal troubles have served as a subject of conversation and an example of the issues with the criminal justice system for many in the city, particularly 76ers co-owner and Meek's close friend Michael Rubin.
In a recent story for Sports Illustrated, Ben Baskin detailed the role Rubin played in helping Meek overcome his legal issues and keeping his spirits high while he was serving part of what was supposed to be a two-to-four-year sentence for a probation violation.
When Meek was granted bail Tuesday, Rubin immediately went to go get his friend from prison to bring him to the 76ers game that night and Baskin explains why Rubin chose the particular mode of transportation he did.
Over the last five months, Meek has shared with Rubin a recurring dream that he has been having recently. In the dream, Meek sees Rubin descending down from the sky in a helicopter, landing next to the prison, and then flying the rapper away. He has told Rubin about this dream on fifty different occasions. ...
At 4:38 pm, a black 5–seat helicopter landed in a grass field behind Rubin’s office. Rubin had called Sixers majority owner Josh Harris who owns Harrah's casino, directly across the street the street from the prison, and asked for a favor. Meek has this dream, he said, could you make a special arrangement so I could land at the Harrah’s helipad and make it a reality?
Hundreds of fans gathered outside the prison, walking in droves from nearby houses in the neighborhood, driving from out of town and parking on the side of the road or the sidewalk, all races and ages. They stood behind a police barricade, forcing cops to shut down the street to thru-traffic. One young girl in a plaid dress stood on a pile of gravel in a construction zone, twenty feet high, looking out over the scene. Dozens of news cameras filmed as the crowd chanted “Free Meek,” just like they had been doing in Philadelphia for months.
At 6:40, Meek exited the prison through a back door and was ushered into the back seat of a black Chevy Suburban by Rubin. He was then driven to the Harrah’s helipad, where he exited the car and jogged through the open helicopter doors. They had a playoff game to get to. On the flight over, both men were in a complete daze. Meek asked for his son to come to the game with him, and it was arranged that his mother would drive seven-year-old Papi from his New Jersey home to meet his father. The rapper told Rubin that he knew this day would eventually come, but just didn’t know what day it was coming. He kept repeating one thing over and over: “It’s amazing.”
They landed the helicopter at Penn’s Landing, about 15 minutes away from Wells Fargo Arena. Another Suburban drove the group to the players’ entrance of the arena, arriving at 7:12 pm, about an hour before tip-off. Meek emerged from the back seat and immediately Rubin’s 12-year-old daughter, Kylie, ran up to give him a hug. “You look like you got taller, Kylie,” Meek said. “Your dad said I’d be back soon.”
Additionally, Baskin notes how Meek showered, got dressed and got a haircut after getting to the stadium so he could ring the ceremonial bell for pre-game, all while Kevin Hart was posting on Instagram live.
You can read Baskin's story in its entirety here.