76ers

Josh Richardson shows charitable side by rewarding 8 kids with a shopping spree at Reebok Headquarters

Josh Richardson shows charitable side by rewarding 8 kids with a shopping spree at Reebok Headquarters

On Wednesday night, just minutes after arriving in Boston at the team’s hotel, Sixers guard Josh Richardson hopped in a car and made his way to Reebok Headquarters about 20 minutes east of Boston Commons.

Richardson was getting ready to surprise eight kids from TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors), designed to help families grieving the loss of loved ones who died while serving in our Armed Forces. What the kids didn’t know is that Richardson was gifting them a $500 shopping spree.

Decked out in the not-yet-released Reebok Answer Heart Over Hypes (which Richardson will also gift each kid), Richardson smiled from ear to ear as he stood up in front of the families, with sincerity.

“I’m really excited to meet everyone, talk with you guys and learn about you.”

He wasn’t kidding.

Over the next few hours, Richardson roamed the store, intimately interacting with each of the families, learning about their life stories.

There was Kensington Kirk, who lost her father, SGT Joshua Kirk, US Navy, on Oct. 3, 2009.

She took the dog tags of her father off her neck, and handed them to Richardson.

Photo credit: Serena Winters

There was eight-year-old, Lucca Hamel, who lost his father CPO Bryan Hamel, while serving in the US Navy just last year.

Lucca’s mom couldn’t believe how comfortable her son looked while talking to an NBA star.

“I’m going to be so cool, when I go to school, mom!” Lucca shouted out to his mom, Jenna. “I think I’m going to be definitely the luckiest kid in my grade.”

There were 16-year-olds Keegan Ollis and Joshua Harrington, who both lost their fathers while serving in the Army, PFC Nathaniel Ollis, and SGT Kyle Harrington, respectively.  

Thirteen-year-old Loralei O’Brien lost her father, SPC Gregg O’Brien, Army, in May of 2014.

And yet her smile lit up the room when talking to Richardson, especially when making sure he approved of her new shoes.

“She got some purple and black shoes that are super fresh,” Richardson said with a smile.

There was 16-year-old Grace Walsh, who lost her sister, PFC Keely Ree Walsh, US Navy, and 12-year old Jarred Jarbeau, who lost his uncle, SGT Michael Weidermann, Army, on Oct. 31, 2006.

“I’m trying to empathize with kids and families, but it’s tough to do when you’ve never experienced any of it,” Richardson said of knowing that every kid has lost a family member very close to them. “It’s not just a parent, a girl in here lost her sister, and she’s in school to be a welder now. She’s going to be certified in three areas of welding! I can’t imagine losing a parent or a sibling, but these families are super strong. It’s hard to think about.”

There were also a couple of familiar faces. Richardson flew out 14-year-old Elijah Byrd, and his mom, Jessica, who have built a friendship with Josh this season through the Walk in My Shoes program.

“That’s my boy!” Richardson. “I figure if I’m going to do something I better bring them out too!”

Richardson also talked with each kid about their different interests. Kensington, for example, told Richardson that she was going to be dissecting a cows’ eyeball in her seventh grade class the following day! So Richardson, who started college as a pre-med student, told her about that one time he touched a brain in college.

“I remember when I was a kid, the few times that I got to meet college athletes in Oklahoma City, it was something you never forget. I’m trying to give these kids a cool experience,” Richardson said.

Photo credit: Serena Winters

After Richardson checked everyone out at the register (yes, Richardson also acted as the cashier!) Lucca ran over to Richardson one last time and held his hand high for a handshake.

“Josh, thank you so much for doing this.”

“Of course, lil bro. Of course.”

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Furkan Korkmaz sparks sudden blaze, then leaps over logic

Furkan Korkmaz sparks sudden blaze, then leaps over logic

There came a point Friday night during Furkan Korkmaz’s career-best 24-point performance when everyone at Wells Fargo Center seemed to collectively shrug and say, “Sure. Why not?”

Korkmaz had already flashed his trademark skill, hitting four three-pointers in under two minutes during a sudden blaze at the end of the third quarter.

With a little less than seven minutes to go in the Sixers’ 100-89 win, he stared down Bulls center Cristiano Felicio. The 22-year-old then crossed Felicio over, blew past him, dunked and let out an exultant scream. 

“At that time of the game, I was really feeling it,” Korkmaz said. “I got that confidence. When I saw the open lane, I just took off. I was also not expecting that, but I just dunked it. That was a good moment.”

Korkmaz wasn’t done, though. He missed a well-earned heat check on the Sixers’ next possession, but dropped in a floater shortly after. And, just to confirm that it was indeed his night, he took a charge on Bulls star Zach LaVine. 

Which play did he enjoy more?

“It’s a tough question, but I think I would say the dunk,” Korkmaz said honestly.

This isn’t the first time Korkmaz has changed a game this season with his shotmaking. He had nine key fourth-quarter points Wednesday vs. Brooklyn, blew up the Bucks’ zone in the third quarter on Christmas and made the game-winning three on Nov. 2 in Portland.

The Sixers declined Korkmaz’s third-year option last year, then let him sit on the free-agent market until July 25. Though they billed him as a young, promising player, their actions suggested Korkmaz was not a prominent part of their plans. He appeared to be on the fringe of the rotation.

Brett Brown hasn’t passed up many chances to laud Korkmaz, and he had a great opportunity Friday.

It’s really quite a — to say it's incredible would be too dramatic — but it's a heck of a story, isn't it? Just where he was and where he is. For us to see him — and he's young, can't forget his birth certificate — for us to see him come in and do JJ [Redick]-like stuff and have that type of a bomber, that was different. … We ran probably, I don't know, five plays in a row going to him. 

“I had flashbacks of JJ. We jumped into JJ's package and he changed the game. He gave us a spark and whether it was a three ball — I don't remember JJ dunking like that … but the long shot and just like bam, bam, bam — quick points, buckets — fueled our defense.

While Korkmaz deserves credit for translating his hypothetical value as a shooter into real contributions this year — he’s made 71 threes, tied with Tobias Harris for most on the team, and converted 39 percent — he will probably not maintain Friday's euphoric high. 

He’s devoted time and energy to improving his defense, but the question of whether he’ll be able to hold his own in the playoffs remains open and valid. If he’s not sinking shots, his impact tends to not be positive. Any moves the Sixers make before the Feb. 6 trade deadline could shift his role, too.

But, for the time being, he is playing with an apparently limitless self-belief.

“As a player you just need to get that confidence,” he said. “When you start to feel good on the court and also your teammates see that, your coaching staff sees that — I think today everybody saw that I was feeling it — and I knew that I had to shoot those looks. I just take the open shots, that’s all I do.”

Brown is clearly relishing in Korkmaz’s success.

“He's quality people,” Brown said. “He's a genuine person and you're proud of that, too. Good things happen to good people ... He's put in the time and to his credit, he came in and changed the landscape of an NBA game. And he did it quite emphatically. It wasn't like it was swept under the carpet. He did it where ESPN and all of us and his teammates, probably more importantly, felt his success.”

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Furkan Korkmaz, Al Horford building a budding bromance

Furkan Korkmaz, Al Horford building a budding bromance

Sometimes, new teammates just seem to click. For one reason or another, guys gravitate towards one another.

For the Sixers, a budding bromance seems to be brewing between veteran Al Horford and youngster Furkan Korkmaz.

After Korkmaz had a monster game, scoring a career-high 24 points in the Sixers’ win over the Bulls Friday, Horford couldn’t help but gush over the Turkish wing.

He’s just great,” Horford said to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Serena Winters postgame. “He continues to get better, his confidence continues to grow. He’s a guy that’s a big piece for us. He’s figuring it out and as the season goes on, you can just see the improvement.

Then he took to Twitter to show even more love.

To which Korkmaz endearingly responded.

The play in the picture was this dunk off a drive which got Korkmaz to 22 points.

This isn’t the first time the pair have shown a kinship. After Korkmaz hit a few big shots on Christmas day against the Bucks, Horford was effusive in his praise. And when Korkmaz hit the game-winner in Portland, he credited the 33-year-old Horford.

I knew that Al (Horford) was going to set a good pick and try to get me open to make the shot. … I was wide open. I just let it fly, and I made it. That was also a huge comeback from double digits (down). Horford, I think, made a lot of shots.

While their bromance is alive and well, Ben Simmons also took to Twitter to celebrate his teammate’s big night.

Tobias Harris also retweeted that post.

Safe to say, the Sixers are pretty Furkan happy right now.

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