76ers Star Earns First NBA Cares Community Assist Award
During the 76ers’ Nov. 18 win over the Milwaukee Bucks, Tyrese Maxey sustained a left foot fracture - the first major injury of his pro career.
Less than a day later, he joined his teammates on the bench, in a boot but smiling, as the team faced the Minnesota Timberwolves on Nov. 19.
Less than a day after that, Maxey and his family were in West Philadelphia, passing out Thanksgiving meals to more than 300 local families on Nov. 20.
Even so shortly after an injury, Tobias Harris wasn’t surprised to see Maxey in either place.
“Tyrese is a man of his word,” Harris said. “He has a lot of pillars and morals that he sticks to, that make up who he is - a trustworthy person, somebody who’s loyal, and also knows his impact.”
Circumstances had no bearing on Maxey’s attendance. There was never a doubt.
“People were asking me if I was still going to do [the Turkey Drive] because I got hurt,” Maxey said following the event. “And I was like, ‘Of course. I can stand, I can walk, I can talk, I can smile. So I’m still going to be here.’”
It was a decision supported by his family - literally - with every step.
“I’ve always tried to teach our kids that when you are going through something, that’s when you really need to reach out and help somebody else,” Denyse Maxey, Tyrese’s mom, said during a recent visit to Philadelphia.
“So he put on the boot that morning, and we very gingerly went to the event. If you go back to some of the footage, I’m standing directly in front of him, I straddled his foot to protect him. And sometimes my mom (Tyrese’s grandmother) was standing to my left, to help protect people from bumping into his foot.”
Maxey has felt that support from those women from the very beginning.
“It started at the very top - both of my grandmothers lived with me since I was four or five years old,” Maxey explained. “They taught me all my manners. And they told me that if I was going to make it, it would be great for me to be able to give back.”
That seed, planted by his grandmothers, nurtured by his parents and family, has now grown into something special, as Maxey prepares to accept his first NBA Cares Community Assist Award as the November 2022 honoree.
Denyse remembers the inception of The Tyrese Maxey Foundation well.
“I came to him, I told him he’s settled, and said, ‘Your career is off to a really good start. Now we need to put some things in place as far as what you need to do to give back to your communities.”
“He was immediately like, ‘Okay Mom, I’m on it.’”
The Community Assist accolade is just the next in a host of accomplishments Maxey has accumulated, rapidly, since his 2019-2020 season at The University of Kentucky, through the 2020 NBA Draft, and into his quickly ascending career - but this award stands out to him.
“It’s right up there at the top. It means that the foundation and I are doing the right things. What I think is really important is putting smiles on people’s faces. That’s one of the biggest things that I’m about - I like to see people happy.”
That mission was accomplished en masse this offseason, as Maxey put smiles on 750 young faces this summer, hosting a series of three camps in his three homes: his hometown, Garland, Texas, his college home, Lexington, Kentucky, and his new home, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
“But he had some stipulations,” Denyse remembers of planning the camps with her son.
“[Tyrese] didn’t want any mom, or single mom, or family, to be in a financial bind. He referenced how rough things got for us - trying to get from one tournament to the next tournament, to get the latest shoe, pay for training, making sure the bills were paid, and his sisters were taken care of. And he said, ‘I don’t want to put another family through that.”
“If we’re going to do the camps, they have to be absolutely, 100% free to each child that attends.”
But that wasn’t enough for Maxey, who remembers attending LaMarcus Aldridge’s camp in Dallas as a kid. As he stepped into Aldridge’s role in the lives of the kids who would attend his camp, he wanted to make sure each child took home a personal, tactile, memory.
“I didn’t want to just come in at the beginning or the end and speak. I wanted to let the kids be able to see me, to touch me. They’ll never forget me being there playing one-on-one, or blocking their shot, or scoring on me. They’ll never forget the time you spent with each individual.”
Though only a third-year pro, Maxey’s impact has already been felt by youth across Philadelphia, and beyond. Maxey remembers a Pennsylvania girl - who missed the Philadelphia camp - making the over-600 mile trip to Lexington with her mom, just for a chance to play alongside her favorite player.
“It means a lot. It means I’m doing something right, I hope,” Maxey reflected.
“It’s amazing, it really is,” Denyse added. “Sometimes it’s still kind of hard for me, because at the end of the day, for me, he’s just Tyrese. He’s my kid.”
Following the series of camps, as Maxey and his teammates descended upon Philadelphia for pre-Training Camp runs, Maxey was two miles away from the practice facility, speaking to students and handing out school supplies at Forest Hill Elementary School in Camden, New Jersey.
A year-round effort: exemplifying his morals and values, on and off the court.
Around that time, Maxey first met teammate De’Anthony Melton, who was immediately struck by Maxey’s punctuality.
“Tyrese is kind of militant with some things… It makes me mad sometimes - how early he is,” Melton said mid-December, with a laugh.
“When I first met him, it was a 10:00 a.m. workout,” Melton remembers. “I’m showing up at like 9:50. And Tyrese is sitting down, ready already, shoes tied.”
“I was like, ‘You’re just getting here?’”
“And Tyrese said, ‘Nah, this is my second workout already.’ And I was just like, ‘Now I see. That’s the type of stuff great players do.’”
In the time since, Melton and Maxey have grown close.
“They put my locker next to his, so we’ve had extensive conversations,” Melton said. “We just kept having fun, and then after a while, we started seeing what each other was doing, and what we’ve got going on. There’s never been a dull moment or a sad moment. We’re always happy.”
From shooting together after each team shootaround, to late-night Call of Duty sessions, Melton says Maxey has been one of the best parts of his move to the Sixers.
“Tyrese got a little better at [Call of Duty] so I’m proud of him. We play the game almost every day. Just talking to him, coming off of road trips, after games, stuff like that. Playing video games definitely builds a connection.”
Melton says that even while he’s been injured, Maxey has been one of the first people in the building each day.
And despite Maxey being two years Melton’s junior, he’s managed to become a role model.
“It makes you want to be better,” Melton said. “It makes me worried about - What time am I getting here? What am I doing? Tyrese definitely makes you want to be better.”
Those working closest with Maxey - though they hold different perspectives - describe their colleague similarly.
76ers Assistant Coach Sam Cassell has worked alongside Maxey since his earliest days as a pro. Cassell described that experience on Nov. 12:
“He’s a true professional. It’s a blessing for me personally to have a guy like that to work with. I wish we had 12 more Tyrese Maxeys on this ball club. He works extremely hard. He takes my criticism. I’m very, very hard on him. I think the sky’s the limit for the kid.”
Joel Embiid, on Mar. 24:
“He’s humble, and he’s a joy. He’s a hard worker - probably the hardest worker I’ve ever been around. He’s always happy, with a smile on his face.”
Harris on Oct. 29, the day after Maxey’s career-high 44-point performance in Toronto:
“Tyrese is special. When he’s out there playing, we embrace his energy. We embrace who he is as a person and a player. He’s young, but he has this glow about him on the court. Anytime I step on the court with him is an honor.”
In his 15 games played this season prior to injury, Maxey was averaging career-highs across the board: 22.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 1.0 steals per game, shooting 42.2% from long range on a career-high 6.8 3-point attempts per game.
And away from the court, as the holiday season approached, his efforts in the community were reaching new highs too.
“The holidays can be a hard time,” Maxey said. “You want to make sure everybody has a great time, and spends it happy, with a smile on their face, with food to eat.”
The Turkey Drive came just ahead of Thanksgiving, as the Maxey family shared much more than just turkey. The boxes distributed to hundreds of families contained a 14-to-16 pound turkey, stuffing, potatoes, green beans, corn, and a variety of snacks and beverages.
“We just wanted families to enjoy and not be stressed,” Denyse said. “If we could take one little thing off your plate, and make you happy, that’s all we wanted to do… I wanted them to have a package of something that was special, from our family to their family.”
And as Christmas approached, The Tyrese Maxey Foundation launched a Toy Drive in Dallas and Philadelphia. They gathered 1,600 toys in Philadelphia alone.
All while balancing his young career, rise to stardom, and rehabbing an injury.
“It shows that he cares,” Harris said. “With the hectic schedule, and being a young player in the NBA, being able to devote his time, it just shows who he is and what he’s about.”
Despite being one of the youngest on the team, his presence, his spirit, and voice carry heavy weight - another achievement, also years in the making.
“As a kid, my mom’s goal was for me to be able to have a conversation with anybody in the world, whether it was the President, whether it was our owners, or trying to make a business deal. I feel like I’ve done that. I took school extremely seriously while I was there.”
Add championship-winning coaches, MVPs, NBA veterans, officials, and staff to that list.
“What she taught me really has helped me because I’ve been on a team that has championship aspirations. I’m able to communicate with my older teammates while being one of the youngest guys on the team, and communicate with them at a respectful and adult level.”
Harris - now a 12-year NBA veteran - wholeheartedly agrees.
“He’s still very young, but he’s a very mature young man,” Harris said. “Everybody knows how special he is on the basketball floor, but he’s even more special off the floor.”
For Maxey, it all comes back to the goal he once set as a kid - spread as much joy as he can, using the platform he’s rightfully earned.
It’s a goal he accomplishes daily.
“Life is hard. So when you can make somebody smile, when you can make somebody’s day, or make somebody’s whole holiday season, then you try to do that,” Maxey said. “That’s what I’ve been trying to do, and it’s really made me happy inside. We’re going to continue to do the same thing.”