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November 13, 2023

Eytan Shander: Tyrese Maxey's energy is infectious and the key to the Sixers' future

Tyrese Maxey scored 50 points against the Pacers on Sunday. His vibes are breathing life into Philadelphia.

Sometimes, we get it right.

Predicting the sharp rise for Tyrese Maxey was about the easiest thing to call from afar for anyone other than Doc Rivers. It’s become a necessary part of new coach Nick Nurse’s early success with the Sixers — just give it to Maxey. While it begs the question just how an incompetent like Rivers was even hired in the first place — who jammed his name into the ballot to see their friend hired here — the answer is rather simple.

Tyrese Maxey is an All-NBA player in the making this year, a franchise cornerstone, and is redefining what a true Philadelphia athlete is. Move over Bryce, there’s a new version of prototype Philadelphian in young Maxey!

His latest exploits — dropping 50 on the Pacers on Sunday — is part of the progression of immense talent that keeps manifesting itself on the court. He’s able to do so many things with the ball, including being a legit threat from deep. As the primary ball-handler, Maxey can distribute while causing headaches for opposing teams trying to slow down the pick and roll with Joel Embiid.

Speaking of the MVP, the latest from Embiid about Maxey — specifically the energy brought by this young star each day  is a fascinating dive into how much Maxey means to Philadelphia. The antiquated notion of being a “lunch pail, blue collar athlete that brings it every day” is getting a makeover thanks to the absolute joy Maxey brings while watching him play basketball. Sure, it looks effortless at times from him, but Maxey still comes with a balanced approach each day  if anything, an eager one that seems to always focus on the positives.

His game has flourished as a result, allowing him to play with any of the nonsense that’s been here as the Sixers stumbled to find their way. They seem to have — at least with the most important Sixers player this year.

Do you understand that? Tyrese Maxey is the most important Philadelphia 76ers player this season and, arguably — outside of Jalen Hurts — the most necessary Philadelphia athlete in the city. If you think it’s all about his talents, you are wrong about Maxey. In fact, it’s about something much deeper and vital — keeping another player in town.

The old guard in Philadelphia was miserable. Some still are. Negadelphians. Twitidiots. The small percentage of radio audience that actually picks up the phone, only for someone to label that moron as a representative of anything. The Cowboys fan who masks as a Sixers fan too, only to infiltrate and derail any positivity. You’ve seen them, heard them, probably know a few.

These morons decided years ago that the prototype for any true Philadelphia athlete was Aaron Rowand. Just some blue collar — whatever the hell that means in sports played by millionaires — player who brought their lunch from home every day. Philly is a tough city. We are nestled in the Northeast. It’s cold and dark here more than it’s light and sunny, as we’ve basically lost both fall and spring to an extended winter or weird version of summer. We wear hoodies, rock beards, keep our heads down when walking the streets. This isn’t a “Hey, stop and say hi to random strangers” type of town. Good. I prefer to be in my own world too.

Somehow, that lifestyle was projected onto athletes who aren’t from here, don’t live the life of a bricklayer or a union worker fixing one of the bridges. Maxey doesn’t do that stuff, he’s not here to anyways, but millions of fans somehow insisted that only the athletes who somehow represented the “feel” of Philly were true Philly athletes.

The newer versions of fanbases in our city have done everything possible to fix or correct that, no longer requiring a player to do anything more than perform and pander. But there’s also a sense of joy that comes from younger fans as they demand something much different than those who came before, laying whatever fan foundation there is. The new guard demands exactly what Maxey brings, and why he’s the new poster athlete to represent Philadelphia.

Have fun doing what you do, never waiver from that. We see it with Hurts, but it manifests itself differently. Hurts is a rock, rarely excited or smiling to the level of Maxey, but also never looking lost or dejected to the point of panic. Jalen Hurts is a rock, the anti-Manning face.

Maxey is a cut and paste smile. Maxey exudes confidence, but maybe more importantly, happiness. For decades people have mistaken wanting to be here with wanting to win, or simply connecting with the fan base over anything more.

Embiid mentioned how Maxey is a joy to be around, even for an anti-morning person like him, every time the young stud enters the building. If anyone has ever worked with someone like that, it’s truly a lasso of positivity that captures any bad mood, ultimately extinguishing it. It might seem strange at first, but the person never waivers. You soon find out that this is who they truly are — happy to be here.

That is why Maxey becomes so vital to this team, not just on the floor but what may come soon after this year — especially if it does not end with a title. Through just a handful of games, talking about the playoffs or anything else seems a little wacky, as the big prize in front of us remains the arrival of Maxey — the teammate.

Never underestimate the power of positivity and how that can influence an entire city. In this case, there’s just one person who truly needs to be influenced, and that’s simply to remain a Sixer moving forward. Maxey continues to prove the impossible on the floor by taking over games with the league’s MVP taking a secondary role.

Now it’s all about keeping that same energy and reminding Embiid why it’s so much fun to play here. Maxey’s energy might be the sole reason why the big fella sticks around, which is more important than any 50-spot Maxey may drop on the floor.

Keep that same energy, Tyrese! We know you will.

Eytan Shander is a long time radio and TV personality in Philadelphia. In addition to his weekly column, you can currently listen and watch him on Fox29’s Good Day and other sports shows. He’s giving betting advice on OddsShopper. A lifetime Eagles fan, Eytan lives just outside the city with his wife.

Follow Eytan on Twitter: @shandershow