PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia 76ers are at the 2024 NBA All-Star break, giving them a chance to get healthy and figure out more ways to win in Joel Embiid's absence. But as is typical for him, Tyrese Maxey can’t stay away from the game. He'll be in Indianapolis for the festivities, including his first All-Star Game.

Maxey said it's “surreal” to know that he's going to be flying out to play in his first All-Star Game soon. In a recent lifting session with the 76ers' director of performance, Ben Kenyon, the two were talking all about it, bringing a smile to Maxey's face. He maintains that helping Philly win is his first and foremost goal. But the recognition of being an All-Star, he said, is worth relishing in.

“I'm gonna do a lot of talking, a lot of experiencing and then a lot of just soaking it all in, honestly,” Maxey said. “It's my first one, hopefully the first of many. But it means something, especially without Joel being able to represent the Sixers in the All-Star Game. So for me to be able to go out there and represent this organization, it's a good thing and I'm very appreciative of it.”

Tyrese Maxey excited to play in his first NBA All-Star Game

Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey (0) drives against Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro (14) in the fourth quarter at Wells Fargo Center
Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

Joining Tyrese Maxey in Indianapolis will be 76ers head coach Nick Nurse.

“I'll take a couple of days off here,” Nurse said of his plans for the weekend off,and then I'm gonna head to the head to All-Star Weekend and support Tyrese and watch the Saturday night and the Sunday night and come home after that and probably get back to work on Monday planning Tuesday's practice. Not much of a break, is it?”

Maxey said that he texted Nurse sometime prior to the 76ers' recent loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the first game with new additions Buddy Hield and Cam Payne, to express his appreciation for him. Nurse has helped Maxey reach a level that not even his most ardent supporters thought would be possible this quickly. Multiple 50-point games and career-high per-game averages across the board hardly do justice to what Maxey can do and the Herculean weight he carries for the collective hopes of all of Philadelphia. Beaming with pride, the Sixers and their fans are stoked to see Maxey on one of basketball's biggest stages.

In addition to the main event on Sunday, Maxey will also be participating in the skills challenge on Saturday with fellow All-Stars Trae Young and Scottie Barnes on his team. Just two years ago, Maxey was a part of the Rising Stars challenge with Barnes. They embarrassed themselves in a shooting competition, missing even the easiest shots. Coupled with the chance at redemption is the view that shows his growth in just two seasons.

The NBA designates young players to the Rising Stars contests to highlight the players with great chances of being All-Stars in the future. It took Maxey just a couple of years to make that ascension into All-Star of today.

“It's great. Honestly, it's a lot different,” Maxey said. “They showed me my schedule earlier today and I just looked at it and I was like, ‘Well, we didn't do all this two years ago.’ But, no, I'm just grateful. I'm grateful, I'm excited. I can't wait to get out there and just, like I said, soak it all in, man. It's a surreal moment for me and my family.”

The glow-up from the Rising Stars game to the All-Star game represents more than Maxey's improvements on the court. It shows that Maxey is a genuine leader for the 76ers, someone expected to be communicative and supportive, to take the heavy burden of responsibility night in and night out. Not many 23-year-olds are asked to do as much for their win-now teams as No. 0 is in Philly.

Payne said that Maxey was the first person to reach out to him after being traded to the 76ers. “He turned into a vet real quick,” he said. The gesture wasn’t meant to be a way to establish himself as the face of the team. It was instead a way to establish the friendly, cooperative environment Maxey strives to instill in his team.

When Furkan Korkmaz was included in the Hield trade, it dawned on Maxey that he was one of the longest-tenured 76ers on the team. Aside from Joel Embiid and Tobias Harris, the longest-tenured players are 2020 draftees Maxey and Paul Reed. It's their fourth year in Philly.

“I just wanna make a culture and create a culture of when guys get traded or when guys come in, they feel welcomed,” Maxey said.It's hard. I mean, I've never been traded, I've never been on a new team. But I just know coming here as a rookie, it's hard to fit in. It's hard to make new friends. I just wanted to reach out to him and Buddy and just tell 'em, you know, welcome.

“That's why I wanted to come up here when we played the Hawks even though I was sick,” he continued.Just to tell 'em hello, tell 'em that we appreciate them being here and that it's a brotherhood here and that we're gonna show love and we're gonna go out there and we're gonna compete as one.”

Maxey surmises that he’s “a natural-born leader” but that it took a few years to establish his footing with the 76ers. John Calipari, his collegiate head coach, fortified Maxey's self-confidence during his lone season at Kentucky. Playing under Nurse has only enhanced it further, as has the work he put in this offseason to get better. 

After the 76ers drafted him 21st overall, Tyrese Maxey climbed the ranks of the NBA. From bench player to starter to star, his journey has been an uphill climb toward bigger and better things. Now, he'll look to do the same with the All-Star Game, starting as a newcomer this weekend and potentially making himself into a regular for years and years.