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Cats are the stars of the cuddliest and most delightfully random NBA meme yet

Every so often, when the stars align just right in the beautifully goofy universe that is the NBA internet, a particular team's fan base concocts a meme that becomes part rallying cry, part inside joke and part homage to their favorite squad.

There have certainly been some good ones in recent years. But the league has never seen a meme as cute as this.

Every time the Philadelphia 76ers win a game nowadays, the victory comes with a side benefit that is oh-so-very internet: a deluge of photos of adorable cats.

Sixers fans call it #RaiseTheCat. Here's what it looked like after a win over Milwaukee on Wednesday:

Here's what it looked like after a win over Portland on Jan. 20:

Here's what it looked like after a win over Toronto on Jan. 18:

Here's what it looked like — well, you get the picture. At this point, you're probably wondering something like: "OK, um ... cats ... NBA basketball ... what the hell does one have to do with the other?"

We'll answer that very question in just one second, but first you need to understand a little bit about a certain segment of 76ers fans, particularly on Twitter. They're goofy and all-around delightful. (Unlike another infamous Philly fan.)

They revel in rookie stud Joel Embiid finally seeing the court. They have a healthy perspective on the team's long trudge back toward relevancy. Chants of "Trust the process" are regularly heard during home games. In other words, the Sixers fan base is quite possibly the only NBA fan base that could have birthed something as wonderfully bizarre as #RaiseTheCat.

How it started

Every meme has an origin story, and this one starts with Sixers rookie Ben Simmons.

Simmons was the first overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft. He hasn't played a game yet, due to injury, but he does frequently post photos of himself with his pet cats to Instagram. Photos like this one:

She's crazy #thatExoticCat

A post shared by Ben Simmons (@bensimmons) on

And this one:

A post shared by Ben Simmons (@bensimmons) on

A Sixers fans named Dennis Grove (whose Twitter handle is @GipperGove and who posted the first tweet embedded in this article) took note. He started posting photos with his own feline alongside the hashtag #RaiseTheCat after Sixers wins. The meme movement took on a life of its own from there, according to Philly.com.

"It's amazing how this has grown," Grove told the new site. "Sixers Twitter is something special."

Here — because we know you want it — are more photos more of Grove and other Sixers fans raising the cat.

Sometimes people even raise huge dogs.

Sometimes they raise cats and dogs. (Look at the expression on that pooch's face, by the way. Too funny.)

Sometimes they raise people disguised as cats.

And sometimes they just make do with what they've got.

What started two weeks ago as an inside joke among the fan base of a middling NBA team has now become a full-on movement as the world at large takes note. But this makes things simple if you happen to be a cat person in search of a pro basketball team to support.

In that case, there is only one option: adopt the 76ers.

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