The Sixers paid a hefty price to acquire Tobias Harris at the trade deadline last season. Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, Landry Shamet, two first round picks, and two second round picks, to be exact. It was a major asset dump for a non-All-Star on a contract that was set to expire come season’s end. But when you’re a team in win-now mode, taking risks is a must. Tobias certainly fit the mold of a guy worth taking a chance on for the Sixers.
Not As Advertised
As we all remember, Tobias’ first few months in a Sixers uniform were a mixed bag. The fit was there and there were many flashes of him being the fourth star behind Joel, Ben, and Jimmy. But a dip in his three-point prowess, compounded by some uneven performances to finish out the regular season that carried over into the playoffs, left a little something to be desired.
Now, there are many things you could chalk all of that up to. New team, new role, new system, and being forced to take third (sometimes even fourth) fiddle to others. That’s not to mention the fact that his acquisition created the third different incarnation of the Sixers lineup just that season. These are not excuses, but rather elements that did not play into Harris’ favor.
Regardless, Elton Brand and company saw Tobias’ potential to be much more than what he showed. They expressed that belief by inking him to a 5-year, $180 million max contract last summer. Of course, it came at the expense of sacrificing Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick.
Show Me The Money
Was it a little much? Look, I understand the sentiment there. When $180 million is invested in a player who isn’t necessarily recognized as a top-tier superstar, there will undoubtedly be fodder for ridicule. But one, I’m not about to disparage another man for securing the bag off of pure hard work. Two, if not the Sixers, then some other team would have been more than willing to provide Harris with something in the neighborhood of $140 million over four years. Extrapolated over the same five-year period that the Sixers are married to him, Harris would’ve likely received very similar money no matter where he went.
What people can’t argue against is the fact that thus far this season, Tobias has been the steady presence we all hoped he’d be. He’s been a viable go-to scorer when this team has needed him to be one. Early-season drought aside, he’s been as reliable from three-point range as you could ask for. He’s also become a steadier defensive presence after grinding on that part of his game last summer. He was a major snub from the All-Star game. And on top of all that, he’s been an exemplary teammate. Whether it’s serving as a playful, stand-up mentor to Matisse Thybulle, blasting J Cole on the team bus, or showing off Ben Simmons’ jewelry, he has been class personified as a leader.
Man of the People
As reliable and consistent as Tobias, the player, has been, Tobias, the humanitarian and ambassador, has been twice that. He has proven to be about as committed a community activist Philly could have ever asked for. He has consistently utilized his platform to contribute to meaningful causes and address the injustices facing not just his adoptive city, but also the country.
Just let his actions speak for themselves. This past October, he pledged $1 million to various Philly-based non-profits involved in childhood literacy. In May, he agreed to help twelve Habitat for Humanity families pay off their mortgages during the COVID-19 pandemic. He served as principal for Bethune Elementary School for a day back in December, reading to students and talking with teachers. More recently, last Saturday he took part in the marches in Philly protesting police brutality and racism in this country. He detailed his thoughts on those matters, among many other things, in an extremely well-written piece published by The Player’s Tribune on Wednesday. If you haven’t checked it out yet, I highly recommend you do.
If that all doesn’t make you gain a greater appreciation for the man, then I really don’t know what to tell you.
And yet, he’s undervalued
Tobias has done everything his team and fanbase have asked of him and then some. Yet, there is still a pretty obvious sense of under-appreciation. It’s difficult to pinpoint a concrete reason why that’s the case. Is it the $180 million contract? The fact he’s on a team with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons? His low-key approach to the game and life, in general? Or is it just an odd case of people feeling more-so satisfied instead of overzealous of his performance?
In no way am I sitting here accusing anyone of holding some degree of disdain for Tobias. I want to believe that’s far from the truth. But, it is fascinating that a guy who goes above and beyond the expectations placed upon him isn’t the recipient of exponentially more gratitude from his team’s supporters than what’s currently being given to him.
I get that people, especially Philly fans, will always have something critical to say no matter how much good is done. That’s just how it goes in this city. Trust me, none of us would have it any other way. But it’s time that people put way more respect on Tobias Harris’ name than they have been. Philly is extremely lucky to call a guy like Tobias one of their own, even if they won’t admit it on their own.