There’s a Sixers fan favorite among some of the Eagles, and it’s not Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons. Torrey Smith, Rodney McLeod and Chris Long are pulling for Justin Anderson.
Anderson’s link to this trio of Eagles goes back to Virginia. Now they are living out their goals of being professional athletes just feet away from each other at the Wells Fargo Center and Lincoln Financial Field.
Among these Eagles, Anderson has known Smith the longest. Their mothers are close friends and the two grew up 15 minutes apart.
“Torrey is obviously a special case for me,” Anderson said. “Torrey is like family.”
Smith has been showing his support for Anderson’s career before he was traded to the Sixers in February. The friends spend time together in Philadelphia and back home, including a crab dinner this offseason.
“My son loves him to death,” Smith said.
Anderson met the “super swaggy,” as he described him, McLeod at Virginia. The freshman Anderson was drawn to McLeod, a senior, for the way he carried himself off the football field.
“His aura, how he carries himself, it’s pretty cool,” Anderson said. “It’s one that when you look at him, you’re like, ‘I want to dress like him. I want to talk like him.’ But he’s a really nice dude.”
McLeod took on the role of tour guide when Anderson moved to Philadelphia. From suggesting a barber to helping with an apartment search to attending the Roots Picnic together, McLeod has been a local go-to.
“It’s good just to have a guy that you’re familiar with in the area,” McLeod said. “He actually lives right behind me now, so I guess he’s my next-door neighbor of some sort.”
Anderson, 23, wants to be more of a leader this season for the Sixers. One player he will look to as an example is Long. They met when Long returned to Virginia to speak with Anderson’s basketball team.
“Being able to talk to him," Anderson said, "what it takes to be a pro, also now as a champion, just being able to use him as another resource has been phenomenal.”
Long can see Anderson taking on that kind of role. He is proud to have another UVA alum playing professionally in Philadelphia.
“Knowing him as kind of a family friend now, it’s fun to keep up with him,” Long said. “The energy he plays with, I think guys will gravitate to that.”
With overlapping seasons, the most convenient way to see one another is at their games. All four will be checking their schedules to find an open day or night.
“Obviously, there are some perks that go with it,” McLeod said with a laugh. “I’ll get him into the Eagles game. Hopefully, he’ll look out and have me at some Sixers games this year. I’m excited for their season.”
Said Smith, “That’s like family to me. Any chance I get the opportunity to support him, I’ll be there.”