76ers

Playing in the same city as his idol Allen Iverson, Trey Burke ready to compete for role with Sixers

Playing in the same city as his idol Allen Iverson, Trey Burke ready to compete for role with Sixers

If you grew up a basketball fan during Allen Iverson’s prime, there’s a good chance you grew to love the six-foot guard out of Georgetown.

And that wasn’t just exclusive to those in the Delaware Valley. Iverson was an icon to many, on and off the court, during his Hall of Fame career.

While Iverson was winning scoring titles and playing in All-Star games, there was a young man by the name of Trey Burke growing up in Columbus, Ohio, who fell in love with the sport of basketball in large part because of the Answer.

All these years later, Burke will now take the floor for the team A.I. was drafted by, he led to an NBA Finals, and the place the 2001 MVP’s NBA career ended.

It’s dope, man,” Burke said in conference call with Philadelphia media Tuesday. “I know everyone knows A.I. has played a big role in just my love for the game of basketball. I met him early on in my career when I was playing in Utah. We developed a relationship then. Being in Philly now, it just came naturally. I’m sure when I get to see him there he’ll have some good advice for me — he always has good advice. I always go back and watch old film of him and how he attacked on offense. A.I. has been a big part of my career and a big part for my love of the game of basketball.

Burke’s career hasn’t exactly followed the same path. The 26-year-old Michigan product hasn’t quite lived up to the billing of being a lottery pick in 2013, but he’s carved a role for himself as a scoring guard in his numerous stops. He has a skill set as a player that can go get his own basket, something that will never be out of style in the NBA.

After playing the last two seasons with the Knicks and Mavericks, Burke is looking forward to getting back on a winning team. He won a state championship in high school, a national championship on the AAU circuit and reached the NCAA Tournament Finals with a star-studded Wolverines team. During his six seasons in the NBA, he’s reached the postseason only once — and played just 20 total minutes in three playoff games for the Wizards in 2017.

Ultimately, that’s how Burke ended up with the Sixers. 

[Winning] played a big part in where I wanted to land,” Burke said. “Philly being a team with high expectations this upcoming year, a team that has experience in the playoffs the last two years – that played a big part. I’ve played on a few teams the last four or five years. Philadelphia being a sports city, having the fans that they have, [me] coming from a team like the Knicks, that kind of market, I was built for it — a Philly type of city.

The backup point guard situation isn’t cut and dry. Burke will battle with fellow veteran Raul Neto, who was brought in as a free agent from the Jazz this offseason. Second-year player Shake Milton could also be a dark horse candidate with a strong camp — though Milton’s summer league performance didn’t help his cause.

Burke’s ability to shoot (37.4 percent from three the last three seasons) and score could also play well next to starting point guard Ben Simmons. Burke mentioned his time in Dallas last season where he played with Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic. Doncic isn’t a point guard, but he’s a ball dominant playmaker. 

With so much more depth, minutes won’t be easy to come by in Brett Brown’s rotation. 

But competition is not something Burke is shying away from.

Yes, if you’re asking if that’s my goal [to be the backup point guard],” Burke said. “I think throughout stretches of the game, [Ben Simmons] and I can play together. I think I can be out there and be with the starting lineup at times. That’s just the competitor in Trey Burke. That’s just who I am as a player and what I bring to Philadelphia. So if you ask me [if I expect to be the backup point guard], yes.

Allen Iverson couldn’t have said it much better.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

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

sixers_josh_richardson_elijah_byrd.jpg
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.



Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

How Al Horford's faith helps him 'keep a lot of things in perspective'

How Al Horford's faith helps him 'keep a lot of things in perspective'

Now in his 13th NBA season, Al Horford is known around the league for his consistency, both in terms of production and approach. 

He credits his faith with helping him maintain his poise.

“My faith is something that really gives me stability and makes me keep a lot of things in perspective," he said, "and helps me manage with all the ups and downs that can go within a season."

Horford talked about the value he places on his faith and the importance of sometimes taking a few quiet minutes for himself in an interview, which you can watch above.

NBC Sports Regional Networks has launched a multi-platform campaign on mental health and men's health, HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports, for the month of November. You can find more information about the initiative here

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers