Philanthropist Alan Horwitz Doubles as Sixers Super Fan

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Alan Horwitz, surrounded by sports paraphernalia
Alan Horwitz, surrounded by sports paraphernalia (David Adelman)

Game 4, Philadelphia 76ers up 2-1 on the Toronto Raptors in the series but down 36-34 in the game.

There’s 4:43 left in the second quarter, and Kyle Lowry, the Raptors point guard — a product of both Cardinal Dougherty High School and Villanova University — was called for a foul. Lowry, as is his right, disagreed with the call, and disagreed fiercely.

One fan, decked out in a personalized white No. 76 Sixers jersey with a white Sixers hat and a white beard to match, decided he was tired of listening to Lowry complain to the official, and let him know.

“He started complaining like a baby,” said Alan Horwitz, the fan in question. “He’s crying to the referee. And I go, ‘C’mon, man, you know you committed that foul; stop the crying!’”

What happened next went viral.

Lowry approached Horwitz and appeared to say something to the referee nearby, who told Horwitz to sit down. “He says to the referee, ‘Yo, this guy’s cursing at me,’” Horwitz said. Cursing at players is one of the quickest ways to get tossed from courtside seats, as Horwitz, the longtime season ticket holder, was well aware. So he sat down, but not before ABC announcer Mark Jones referred to him as a “vociferous fan.”

Before long, videos of the encounter blew up on Twitter, and Horwitz, who had already earned himself notoriety as the quintessential 76ers super fan, added to his legend.

Horwitz, 75, has thought a lot about legacy these days.

It was his gift of approximately $2 million dollars to the Horwitz-Wasserman Holocaust Memorial Plaza at 16th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway that helped bring the recently opened site from idea to reality, and it was partially born out of his desire to see Holocaust education taken seriously for generations to come. The city gave the site an 80-year lease.

“Having that lease there, you can have at least four generations of children, yet to be born as well as little kids today, who will have the opportunity to go there and go, ‘Wow, this really did exist,’” he said.

Horwitz, like Lowry, is a Philadelphia native, born in Strawberry Mansion. When he was young, his family moved to Wynnefield, and he attended Overbrook High — just six years after Wilt Chamberlain, his favorite basketball player of all time, finished there. “Chamberlain changed the rules of the game,” he said. “So, of course, he got me very interested in basketball.”

Horwitz played a little ball in those days — not quite well enough to make the team — but it was during that time that his lifelong love affair with Philadelphia basketball was born.

He’s been a Sixers season ticket holder for more than 40 years, and has held his prominent perch next to the scorer’s table since 2011; he’s formed personal relationships with many of the Sixers over the years. He is impossible to miss in any home game broadcast, and often is an easy find on the road, too. His office is covered in sports memorabilia, much of it given to him directly by the Philadelphia sports teams, and some signed by the players he came to know as friends.

Horwitz’s father, who died when Horwitz was 10, was a lawyer by trade but did a little business in real estate on the side, snapping up cheap, distressed properties. When he died, everyone told Horwitz’s mother to sell the properties, but she was determined to hold onto them — after all, it wasn’t so easy to support oneself as a single woman at that time, and the rents coming in from the properties sustained her and her son.

Horwitz would ride along with her, picking up rent with his mother; when he turned 16, he started to pick them up himself, driving around in the family Dodge, a white 1957 convertible “with big fins on it,” as Horwitz recalled. It was also around that time that he dropped out of high school to focus full-time on the burgeoning business.

And burgeon it did.

“I started buying stuff, and I thought, ‘Holy s—, the amount of rent you get,’” he said. “And it’s all over the place!”

Horwitz had a knack for business, and started to get into student rentals around the University of Pennsylvania. The family business, Campus Apartments, was extraordinarily successful; Horwitz said that throughout the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, there was not a single day when he didn’t have something under agreement of sale.

The ’90s brought a new element: his friend David Adelman. His mother had been close to Adelman’s grandmother, and Horwitz knew him from the time he was young. Horwitz considers Adelman a son of sorts, and pictures of Adelman and his children cover the walls of Horwitz’s office (Horwitz never married and has no children of his own). Adelman worked for Campus Apartments in high school and, after he graduated from Ohio State University, came back with some ideas for expansion.

Today, Adelman is the CEO and Campus Apartments is in 25 states and the largest privately held student housing company in the country. They deal in numbers beyond comprehension — “telephone numbers,” as Horwitz called them. He never could have imagined it 60 years earlier.

Horwitz planned to travel to Toronto for Game 5 of the playoff series on May 7 (which will have been played by the time this article’s published), and he’s confident in a win. Sixers in 6, he said.

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