76ers

Away from the cameras, Josh Richardson builds special bond with his 14-year-old mentee, Elijah Byrd

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Photo courtesy of Sixers.com

Away from the cameras, Josh Richardson builds special bond with his 14-year-old mentee, Elijah Byrd

The first time Josh Richardson met his mentee, 14-year-old Elijah Byrd, he pulled him over to the side, away from the cameras.

“This isn’t just for the screen,” Elijah recalls Richardson saying. “I'm not doing this to just show that I'm a good guy and everything. If you want to hit me up, hit me up whenever you need.”

Elijah admits he was skeptical at first, and so was his mother, Jessica. Richardson and Elijah were paired up as part of the Sixers' "Walk In My Shoes" mentorship program. Both Elijah and his mom quickly realized that Richardson wasn’t kidding around.

“He put his name in my phone as big bro!” Jessica remembers her son saying that day, smiling from ear to ear.  

“That in itself was worth the two-hour long journey to get there that day,” Jessica says of their trek out to the Sixers' Blue x White Scrimmage at 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington, Delaware. “That smile is what makes everything worth it.”


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           (Photo courtesy of Sixers.com)

That first meeting was just the beginning.

Shortly thereafter, Richardson invited Byrd to the Philadelphia Union game. There were no cameras ...

“Josh was like, ‘You rolling with us?’ And I was like, 'Wait what did you say? Repeat that,'" Elijah remembers, stunned. “I was like, 'You have no idea what this means to me.' I was freaking out.”

Elijah and his mom both got to meet Richardson's family that day, an important step for a protective mother.

Jessica admits it’s been tough to let her only son go but she realizes now that she couldn’t have asked for a better mentor.

The fact that Richardson also grew up in a military household is an added bonus. Richardson’s mother, Alice, is a retired lieutenant colonel in the US Air Force Reserves. Elijah’s father and Jessica’s late husband, LCPL John T. Byrd, lost his life serving as a marine in Iraq in 2004. They buried him on Veterans Day 15 years ago.

“I’m really here for him,” Richardson says. “I tried to make it a point off the bat, so his mom and his family could feel comfortable with me.”

“There was a lot of fear in my mom heart about what most of this would look like, but I was mostly worried about my sons’ spirit being crushed, if he had dreams and expectations and it ended up not happening,” Jessica admits. “But Josh just seems so humble. I feel like in regards to being a mentor, he's perfect for Elijah, teaching him some humility, and nutrition and good work ethic.”

“He’s kinda like me, honestly,” Richardson says of Elijah. “We don’t really talk a lot around new people and I understand how to approach that. He’s shy at first, but once you kind of get to know him and get talking to him, he’s really funny, he’s expressive.”


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          (Photo courtesy of Sixers.com) 

Elijah’s spirits have been far from crushed. On Sunday night, which also coincided with Military Appreciation Night, Elijah was out on the court at Wells Fargo Center helping Richardson go through his pregame warmup prior to being introduced as the Strong Kid of the Game.

And as for that smile that his mom drove two hours to see last month, it was back and brighter than ever.

“It was really fun,” Elijah says moments after running off the court with his new friend. “I was kinda freaking out, though, because Mike Scott was also there shooting free throws … but it's not just Mike Scott, it's Mike Scott! I was freaking out.”

“I’ll holler at you after, bro,” Richardson shouts out in the hallway.



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Sixers' Elton Brand, Matisse Thybulle and Tobias Harris protest in Philadelphia, encourage activism

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@Sixers on Twitter

Sixers' Elton Brand, Matisse Thybulle and Tobias Harris protest in Philadelphia, encourage activism

Philadelphians on Saturday flooded the streets in protest of racism and police brutality following the death of George Floyd last week. The sheer volume of the protesters was powerful.

Among those in attendance were Sixers forward Tobias Harris, who recently penned a strong personal essay on acknowledging and addressing systems of racism, rookie Mattise Thybulle, and general manager Elton Brand. 

The Sixers shared several photos and video from the protest on social media. Thybulle and Brand wore shirts with the words “I can’t breathe!,” which Floyd said as police officer George Chauvin was kneeling on his neck, and which Eric Garner said in 2014 as he was being choked by NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo. 

Harris’ shirt had the face of civil rights leader Malcolm X on it and the phrases “No sell out!” and “By any means necessary!” Thybulle held up signs that said, “Vote” and “We all have a voice — use it.”

“It’s always good to be around this many great people who are striving for unity and striving for people to have equality,” Harris said.

Raptors point guard and Philadelphia native Kyle Lowry walked alongside Harris and Thybulle. 

The Sixers organization standing behind those protesting and actively seeking to amplify their voices is significant. The team on Saturday also retweeted a post by Glenn Robinson III with information about a fundraising campaign that his non-profit organization, Angels Are Real Indeed (ARI), is launching.

ARI, which seeks to “help fathers become better in fatherhood, and help families without one,” will fundraise in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, Robinson announced. 

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Why is there a basketball hoop traveling through Philadelphia during protests?

Why is there a basketball hoop traveling through Philadelphia during protests?

Over the last week, you’ve likely seen, read about, participated in or experienced in some way protests against racism and police brutality following the death of George Floyd.

You might also have noticed a basketball hoop rolling around Philadelphia. 

NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Marc Farzetta recently talked with Philadelphia native Stephania Ergemlidze, who’s responsible for the traveling games of 1-on-1.

“Basketball is the one way I know how to spread love and I know how to bring people together,” Ergemlidze told Farzetta, “so it was a no-brainer.”

Ergemlidze said that she was cognizant of not wanting to detract or warp the messages of protestors. Philadelphians gathered on Saturday for the seventh straight day in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

“That was something I was very, very nervous about,” she said. “What way can I do it where I’m not actually distracting from the protests? My goal was not to distract from the protests. My goal is to amplify it and show the positive sides of things, because right now I feel like they’re sharing a lot of negatives, like rioting and looting, but there’s also a lot of peaceful protesting going on.”

You can watch Ergemlidze’s interview with Farzetta in the video above. 

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