For first time in 10 years, Sixers player development specialist Remy Ndiaye will be home for Christmas

Sixers Digital (Studio 76)

For first time in 10 years, Sixers player development specialist Remy Ndiaye will be home for Christmas

Imagine coming to America from Dakar, Senegal, to play basketball when you were 18 years old. No family. No friends. You learn English by taking notes while you watch TV or listen to the radio. You don’t have a phone to communicate with your family, because you’re told it will help immerse you in the culture and improve your language.  At basketball practice, you hide behind the line and watch what everyone else does, and do your best to duplicate it.

You try to get your family to attend your college graduation from Dallas Baptist University after not seeing them for so many years, but twice, they are denied a Visa.

Sometimes you have some mental breakdowns, but that is what motivated me the most, honestly, to keep working hard, and just always think there is a reason why I am doing all of this.

For Remy Ndiaye, player development specialist for the Sixers, that reason is family, a family he hasn’t seen in over four years.

This is the story of sending Remy home.

It was a cold, grey morning outside of the Sixers practice facility in Camden, New Jersey, while forward Jonah Bolden was standing in front of his coaches and teammates, delivering a PowerPoint presentation on the subject of his choosing, artificial intelligence. (It's become a customary practice to players to speaking on a topic they're interested at the Sixers' monthly team breakfasts).

As Ndiaye stood in the back and Bolden finished up his presentation, head coach Brett Brown took the floor and pulled up a photo of Dakar.

But before we get to that, let’s backtrack.


Two weeks prior, Brown was chatting with Ndiaye about the team breakfasts, asking him about Senegal and intimating that he might have Ndiaye speak about Senegal — at least that is what Ndiaye thought.

So when Ndiaye saw the photo of Dakar projected in front of his teammates, he assumed Brown was calling him up to announce him as the presenter at the next team breakfast.

Little did Ndiaye know that the group chat that he received asking for family photos weeks prior for a Christmas card was also all part of the plan.

“It was a complete sham,” said Rich Fernando, the Sixers' director of coaching administration, who helped coordinate the surprise. “We didn't want to just call him into the office; that would be too plain, too bland. We wanted to do it in front of everyone because he means a lot to a lot of people here.”


After the photo of his hometown, there was a photo of a flight path from Philadelphia to Dakar. Then, the photo of his family appeared. Ndiaye’s mom and dad, Thereze and Henry, his brothers John and Francis, his sisters Edith, Marta, and Mary.

“When’s the last time you saw your mum?” Brown asked in front of the entire staff.

“It’s been four years,” Ndiaye said, clutching the collar of his shirt as he tried to conceal his emotion.

“We’re going to send you home, Rem," Brown said. "You’re going to go back and see your family and Merry Christmas.”

“That’s when it hit me," Ndiaye said. "I started crying, it was unbelievable. It hit me a lot when I saw the love of every single player getting up and giving me a hug and that’s when I realized, this is my second family.”

That love from his teammates is real.

Ndiaye wasn’t the only one who started to get emotional.

“To tell you the truth, it was emotional for me too,” Jimmy Butler says. “I could've cried for real. That type of stuff gets me. Family, love, and that's what this Philly thing is based around, man. It's so much more than just basketball and seeing how happy he was right then, in that moment, that’s what life is about, to make other people feel great and just to bring a smile on their face. Especially for him, who works as hard as he does every single day, and comes in and never ever complains about absolutely anything.

“He's smiling every second of every day. I wish I could do that, I wish the world could do that, because we wouldn't worry about half the things that we worry about today. If everyone would just smile and be grateful for what they have, and not what they don't have, and Remy is like, probably the biggest example that I've ever seen in my life.”

The same goes for T.J. McConnell.

“He brings the best attitude to the gym every day," McConnell said. "If you're in a bad mood and you just talk to him, he's one of those guys that can talk you right out of a bad mood. I got a little emotional seeing him break down like that because I don't know what I would do if I didn't see my family for that long, so when I saw him get emotional, it was a cool moment.”

Mike Muscala said it was especially cool for him, because a week prior Ndiaye was driving him to assistant coach Billy Lange’s house for Thanksgiving, and was talking about how much he hoped to see his family.

And for Joel Embiid, who can relate on so many levels, both in being from Africa and knowing what it’s like to not see your family for such long periods.

“I hadn't seen my parents for a long time when I left, so I can understand the excitement of him being in that situation," Embiid said, "because I know, I've been through it. I went a couple years without seeing my whole family and I know how that feels, and that’s why when these guys made it happen, I was so happy for him.”

“It changes you. Every summer, I go back to Africa and it reminds me of where I'm from and what it's about where I came from and how hard it is to get to this place.”

It will be Ndiaye's first Christmas home since 2008. It will be the first time he sees his nieces and nephews, and he’s only got one thing on his mind.

“It’s been 10 years since I’ve spent Christmas with them," Ndiaye said. Just hug everybody, one by one.” 

All photos courtesy of Sixers Digital (Studio 76). 

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NBA owners reportedly expected to approve plan for return

NBA owners reportedly expected to approve plan for return

Updated, Wednesday, 3 p.m.

According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, NBA commissioner Adam Silver intends to propose a 22-team plan to resume the 2019-20 season at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the NBA's Board of Governors has a call at 12:30 p.m. ET Thursday and is expected to approve Silver's plan. 

Silver is targeting a date of July 31 to resume play, per Charania. The season has been suspended since March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

What exactly would a 22-team return look like? Each team would play eight regular-season games to determine playoff seeding, and the six teams outside of those in a playoff position at the moment would be the Pelicans, Trail Blazers, Suns, Kings, Spurs and Wizards, Wojnarowski reported.

According to Yahoo Sports' Vince Goodwill, teams would continue with their schedule as originally planned. If a team is slated to play one of the eight teams not included, it would move on to the next game on its schedule. The Sixers had a relatively easy remaining schedule, so the elimination of non-contending teams would be a slight negative for them. They had a stretch of games set for March 19-26 against Charlotte, Atlanta, Minnesota and Chicago.

Here's what their remaining schedule could look like, based on Goodwill's reporting:

Vs. Indiana 
Vs. Washington
Vs. Toronto 
Vs. Phoenix 
Vs. Portland 
Vs. Houston
At Washington
Vs. Orlando 

At 39-26, the Sixers are currently the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. While they're 8.5 games ahead of the Nets, the seventh seed, the Sixers could have an opportunity to rise in the standings. The final regular-season games could also impact the Sixers in the NBA draft. The team owns Oklahoma City's first-round pick, but that selection is top-20 protected, meaning it won't convey if the Thunder don't finish with one of the league's 11 best records.

There would be a play-in tournament if the ninth seed is within four games of the eighth seed at the end of the regular season, Charania reported. If that's not the case, the eight seed would go straight to the playoffs. That won't apply to the Sixers, since they're not on the playoff bubble.

Still, the play-in tournament might impact the probability of early upsets, one way or another. It remains to be seen whether a team performing well in the play-in tournament would carry over to the playoffs, or whether it would be adversely impacted by the extra games played. Both factors could have an influence. 

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Sixers' Tobias Harris delivers strong message about racism, police brutality in personal essay

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Sixers' Tobias Harris delivers strong message about racism, police brutality in personal essay

In an essay published Wednesday morning in The Players’ Tribune, Tobias Harris delivered a strong message about racism and police brutality in America while also providing insight into how his perceptions about race have been shaped. 

The piece is headlined, “Y’all Hear Us, But You Ain’t Listening.” Harris begins by framing the conversation about the death of 46-year-old black man George Floyd, who was killed last week in police custody when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for over eight minutes. Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, while the three other officers on the scene were fired but haven’t been charged.

“But if we gon’ talk about what happened to George Floyd,” Harris writes, “there needs to be a baseline acknowledgement of the reality: A white police officer killed an unarmed black man, and he was able to do it in broad daylight, with three other cops watching, because of the color of his skin.

“And don’t reply to me with, ‘Oh, but this person did this.’ Don’t try and make excuses, or say this isn’t about race. In a lot of my conversations with white people lately, I’m getting that statement over and over again: ‘Let’s stop making this about race.’” 

Harris draws a sharp juxtaposition between President Donald Trump’s characterization of protestors against stay-at-home orders in place because of the coronavirus pandemic and Trump's language about protestors who have marched around the country in the aftermath of Floyd’s death. 

Last month, armed men took over the steps of Michigan’s capitol building. To protest the QUARANTINE.

And what did the President call them?

'Good people.'

But we go out and protest that another black life has been taken senselessly, and we’re 'THUGS.'

Come on.

This is why black Americans are angry.

Harris writes that “the killing of Trayvon Martin was a turning point for me.” 

“When he was killed, all because he looked ‘suspicious’ for wearing a black hoodie at night in his own neighborhood, I realized that that could have been my brother,” he writes. “Once you really sit with that, it’s a really scary feeling. I had to get out of my own NBA bubble, and understand that there’s a different world out there. Not everybody can get in a nice car every day, drive to work, come home, work out, and be O.K. People go through different s---. Every. Single. Day. I had to come to grips with that.”

He later reflects on the obligation he feels to speak on behalf of black people who don’t play in the NBA or have celebrity status and cites the late Muhammad Ali as an inspiration.

The way I look at it? If people in my community are oppressed, then so am I. Shout out to Muhammad Ali, one of the biggest role models in my life, for showing the way. He was never scared to take a stand against INJUSTICE.

"I’ve also had to get uncomfortable in knowing who I am — knowing that, yeah, I made it to the NBA, and that’s changed some things for me in terms of how I’m treated. I don’t have it the same as the next person. I’ve come to grips with the fact that yes, I’m black, but that dude that’s getting pulled over by a cop in his car, he don’t have the luxury of that officer recognizing him.

"That’s the problem. The difference between a cop recognizing you or not shouldn’t be life or death. 

Harris says he’s glad he protested on Saturday in Philadelphia after regretting a missed opportunity to march in Orlando in 2013, about a year after Martin’s death.

“On Saturday in Philly, it was about a togetherness of people pushing out a message. And that message was really about respect. It was about people respecting others, and understanding their hurt and their pain.”

Another interesting topic Harris covers is the deficiencies he sees in what kids are taught about black history, and his individual efforts to fill in knowledge gaps. He also covers his own work mentoring young people in the Philadelphia area and the disparities he’s observed “between a school in North Philly out here, and a school in the Main Line of Lower Merion.”

The entire piece is worth a read. 

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