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Footlighters' Lion Wants to be Big Shot

Comedian Chris Morris is about to start a run as the Cowardly Lion in the Footlighters Theater Company production of the Wizard of Oz, but he's set his sights on another costumed character.

Actor/Comedian Chris Morris is starring in The Wizard of Oz which opens Friday, March 2 at . In the meantime he's gotten up the courage, and an internet following, that he hopes will help propel him to his dream job: reviving the Philadelphia 76er's mascot Big Shot.

Morris, who lives in the Roxborough section of Philadelphia grew up loving the Philly Phanatic and St. Joe's Hawk, but he always held a special affection for the former Philadelphia 76ers' mascot Big Shot.

"When I was a kid, I had hernia surgery, and Big Shot came to my house for a visit. Just picture your favorite cartoon character walking into your living room," Morris said. "I've loved him ever since."

So, after the local comedian and actor heard the Sixers might reinstate the big, blue basketball monster to its mascot home in South Philadelphia, Morris took to the Web. With the help of friend, Mike Dinicola, the Make Chris Morris "Big Shot" - the next Sixers Mascot Facebook page launched Monday, and already has more than 600 members.

"I know what they're looking for in a mascot. I've played a costumed character before," Morris said. "I've always been a basketball fan, and when they got rid of Big Shot, it hurt. Now, I want to help bring him back."

The Search for a New Mascot

Shortly after a group led by Joshua Harris purchased the Sixers from Comcast in 2011, new CEO and co-owner Adam Aron announced that mascot, Hip Hop, would retire quietly to rural Pennsylvania.

The team followed with an online vote with three choices to be the new mascot—Phil E. Moose, B. Franklin Dogg, and Big Ben (a jacked-up Ben Franklin). Though no final word came out, the choices weren't exactly met with open arms by Sixer fans. An online movement pushed for the return of Big Shot, who faded away in the 1990s.

Since the ownership change, the Sixers have become relevant again through a winning season, reduced ticket prices, and a return to uniforms and colors associated with championship teams in the 1970s and '80s. In that same vein, the move to bring back Big Shot has gained steam.

Aron polled fans Sunday, when he tweeted: "Been a surprising ground swell for Big Shot. Do you want Big Shot back... Yes or No?"

Morris' Basketball Background

Performance and basketball always have played a big part in Morris' life. Son of legendary Philadelphia high school and college basketball coach, Speedy Morris, Chris spent time as the La Salle Explorer when his dad headed the program. 

A family friend of former Big Shot mascot, Joe Kempo, Morris owned and watched videotapes of "The Best of Big Shot." He duplicated Kempo's moves at family parties.

As an adult, Morris entered the world of standup comedy, billing himself as "The Riot Who Needs a Diet." He often performs in and around the city, and will be performing with radio icon Joe Conklin at Holy Cross School this Saturday, Feb. 25.

His reach goes to the silver screen, where Morris appeared in the movie Kids In America, with Nicole Richie, Julie Bowen and George Wendt. Locally, Morris starred in a recent commercial for Roxborough restaurant , where he also sometimes does standup. His comedy shows with dad, Speedy, have gotten some buzz, as well.

The New Big Shot?

Morris has reached out to the Sixers for the job, and hopes his fan support puts him over the top.

"Someone made the page for me, I didn't even know who at first at 10 a.m. By noon it had 400 likes," Morris said, later adding Dinicola created it. As of Friday morning (Feb 24) the page had more than 2200 likes.

For Morris, his lifetime around basketball and performing really mesh well with what the owners are accomplishing.

"They really get what the fans want, and are doing a really good job so far," he said. "I really care about the Sixers and want to be Big Shot."

To support Morris, visit the Facebook page here.

For more information on his standup, click here.

Click here for tickets and information about the Wizard of Oz at Footlighters Theater in Berwyn.

Editor's Note: Sam Fran Scavuzzo's profile of Chris Morris originally appeared on Roxborough Patch.

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