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Sixers’ Tobias Harris is a star on the court and in his community

Sixers’ Tobias Harris is a star on the court and in his community

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When Tobias Harris, the 26-year-old Philadelphia 76ers forward, was growing up on Long Island, his father coached his AAU team, The City Rocks. Torrel Harris is a former sports agent and collegiate player who once played for the Albany Patroons of the Continental Basketball Association, for a then-unproven coach named Phil Jackson. He knows a little bit about basketball, but just as important for Torrel Harris was being a good guy, and having a positive impact on his community.

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“My parents raised me to always give respect to everybody,” Tobias Harris told CBS Sports a couple hours before the Sixers were to depart for Toronto Friday for Game 1 of their second-round series against the Raptors. “To be humble, and to understand that different people are from different walks of life, and you never know who you can inspire, who you can use your platform to help. As a kid, my father was my coach. We would go all over Long Island, to New York City, and he’d pick up all the kids who were on the team. They could be in the Bronx, in Queens, in all sorts of different living environments from where I lived. That was just my father. We’d finish playing, and he’d always buy all of us food. So I saw that type of giving back from him, to me, to all the kids who played on the team. So that’s always what I’ve tried to do.”

As the Sixers are trying to reach the championship that Joel Embiid has predicted them capable of, Harris is also part of a different sort of competition. He’s one of 10 NBA players who are up for the 2018-19 season’s NBA Cares Community Assist Award. (The others: Jarrett Allen, Bradley Beal, Mike Conley, LeBron James, Damian Lillard, Khris Middleton, Donovan Mitchell, Dwight Powell and Pascal Siakam.) The award is chosen by fans and an NBA executive panel; fans can vote on social media via Jebbit, where they can view and select videos highlighting each player’s community service impact, and on Twitter, by using #NBACommunityAssist and either a player’s Twitter handle (like @Tobias31) or their name in a hashtag (like #TobiasHarris).

Harris has played for a bunch of teams in his NBA career. When he was traded to the Sixers in February, that marked the fifth team he’d played for in eight NBA seasons. (If you count the fact he was drafted by the Charlotte Bobcats before quickly being traded to the Milwaukee Bucks on draft night, he’s been on six NBA franchises.) But it’s important to him to establish a connection to his community, even if he’s learned that being part of an NBA community isn’t always a permanent thing. His focus has always been on youth mentorship, specifically on public education and literacy. Within a few weeks of being traded to the 76ers, he hosted more than 40 girls for a panel discussion titled “Game Changers: Women in Sports, Tech & Literacy.” He was the moderator of a panel discussion with four successful local businesswomen. After the panel, he gifted the girls, who were from underserved Philadelphia neighborhoods, a Nike backpack, a book and Sixers gear.

During his time with the Clippers, Harris did charitable work locally in Los Angeles and internationally. He supported the construction of a school in Bizoton, Haiti, and sent new sneakers and soccer equipment to students there. In Los Angeles, he joined teammates, Clippers staff and local military personnel to deliver bags of food and personal care items to 1,000 families. Then at Thanksgiving, he gifted turkeys to 250 families at a local YMCA, and then hosted 30 young men from the Tobias’ Troops Mentoring Program for a movie screening and holiday event.

Each time Harris has joined a new team, he’s made it known that service projects like these are an immediate priority. “It’s an approach and a game plan — finding those types of areas you know you can inspire and help,” he said. He hasn’t been able to do all that much in Philadelphia just yet — he was only traded there on Feb. 6 — but he already feels a connection to the city. He’s an East Coast kid. He spent plenty of time going to basketball tournaments in Philly as a child. And he loves that the children he’s impacting are often Sixer fans. “It doesn’t matter where it is — communities in all areas can use some help,” he said.

And if you’ve read this far, I’m guessing you’re a Tobias Harris fan, or you’re a Philadelphia 76er fan, or both. And you’re probably wondering about the playoff series that’s starting on Saturday night. So I’m sneaking in a little bit of hoops into this story about community service. If there’s one big question of this series, it’s this: The Sixers have an incredible starting five — the five-man lineup of Harris, Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons and JJ Redick was even better in the first round of the playoffs against the Brooklyn Nets than they were in the regular season. In 49 playoff minutes together, that lineup has outscored opponents by 62.2 points per 100 possessions. But the Raptors’ greatest strength — depth and versatility — might be the Sixers’ greatest weakness. I asked Harris how much he thinks that question will matter against the Raptors.

“When it’s the playoffs, the word ‘depth’ is out of reach,” he said. “It’s the playoffs. Your starters are playing close to 40 minutes per game. They could have depth, but I know we have depth, too. Just because they’re rotating starters — and clearly that’s a thing they’ve been able to use in the past.”


Posted by smashdownsportsnews on 2019-04-26 22:47:13

Tagged: , Basketball , News , Featured

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