Philadelphia 76ers star Tobias Harris is in the middle of a heated playoff series with the Washington Wizards, which his team currently leads 3-0. On Memorial Day Monday, however, he'll also be remembering and showing respect for the the men and women who served the United States military.
Tobias Harris' grandfather, Lieutenant Colonel John Mulzac, served in the United States Army Air Force during World War II as a member of the Tuskegee Airmen.
Honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this country and paying tribute to my Grandfather Lt. Col. John I Mulzac Sr., who served as a Tuskegee Airmen. @USAA sent me this poppy, which will be a symbol of remembrance on Memorial Day. #HonorThroughAction #USAApartner pic.twitter.com/KEAqSPSUEE
— Tobias Harris (@tobias31) May 27, 2021
In an exclusive interview with ClutchPoints, Harris talks remembering veterans on Memorial Day, his partnership with USAA, the Philadelphia 76ers' playoff run, playing with Joel Embiid as well as Ben Simmons, and even his best friendship with Boban Marjanovic.
Tomer Azarly: What are you doing with USAA and why is it important to you?
Tobias Harris: Yeah, so I partnered with USAA for Memorial Day to really bring to light that my grandfather was somebody during this time for my friends and family. It’s always important that we just show the appreciation and just show respect. He’s somebody that instilled in myself and family and showed all of us just the sacrifice that it took to do what he did and for this Memorial Day with USAA, we’re partnering by really showing appreciation and that comes from the poppy flower. It’s been a symbol of remembrance for the people that made the sacrifice, the men and women that made the sacrifice for myself, family, everyone in the country. People can find out more information about this by going to PoppyInMemory.com for Memorial Day as a whole and I just think it’s important. I think the holiday is being used by a lot of people as a day to just be able to barbecue and kind of party, but for myself and my family, we use this day to show respect and show appreciation.
Tomer Azarly: What kind of influence has your grandfather had on you growing up?
Tobias Harris: He had a big influence on myself and family by really … He was somebody that was around us a lot, just showed us the feel young kids, he was more than just … He wanted more for everybody in our family, but he’s always pushing us to be great, I mean, even in basketball, he would always come to my games as a kid so he just showed that anything is possible if you work at it and you’re somebody that puts the right energy into it, that that will suit you definitely well.
Tomer Azarly: How did you apply that into your life with basketball?
Tobias Harris: Oh man, that’s just been my forte in basketball. Every day, putting in the work and letting the results take care of themselves and at the same time, just enjoying what I’m doing day in and day out is huge. I mean that was a huge thing that he taught me. He taught myself and my brothers and sisters that you gotta have fun with everything you do and we definitely learned a whole lot from that.
Tomer Azarly: Shifting to the NBA, curious what are some of the differences in playing under Doc Rivers this year? You’ve clearly been very successful with him at the helm.
Tobias Harris: Yeah, I mean, when I was playing in LA, it was like an eye-opening experience for me like, the type of success I was having. Just him as a coach, you always hear so much about it from the outside looking in and then you get there and then you actually get to see it, so I would say just his ability to put myself and also other players in the right position to be successful. I think he’s one of the best in the game at that and as a coach, he does a great job dealing with egos and allowing players to be who they are.
You know I’ve said it before one time, but Doc is a coach, but he’s also a leader of the team and that’s been crucial for our group this yer was a whole and everybody kinda falls right in line after that and that’s important.
Tomer Azarly: You’ve obviously developed into a star, but as you’re going through the early stages of your career, being traded often, did you realistically see a path toward you becoming this good?
Tobias Harris: Uh, yeah I mean it was always a goal for me. I think when I got to LA, I first got there, I thought at first like, ‘Man, this … I don’t know how this situation is gonna go.’ Just because I got moved again, but from about three games in, I was like, ‘Okay, this is just a step along the way for me to really get to the point I need to get to.' And at the time, I thought it was gonna be there, the whole time, but when I got traded to Philly, at that point, I knew like on that group, we can play for a championship here. It obviously didn’t work that year, but I knew the talent that the team had with myself, Ben, and Joel, even last year, that we could do something special and here we are and we’ve gotta chance to make something really great happen and so that’s a great experience to be in as a player.
Tomer Azarly: A lot of people looked at Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid and said they couldn’t work, looking at their faults instead of what they do best. What's your take on how those two play and work together?
Tobias Harris: I think that on both of what you call “flaws” of the game, I think they overhyped and people love to talk about it just because they’re two very popular players, so everybody wants to speak up and talk on it. And I even felt like after Game 1, there was a lot of chatter about Ben not scoring enough, but I was like, ‘The dude just had 15 rebounds and 15 assists and was the reason for 41 points on the floor.' So people are always gonna critique them, because I think of the potential that they both have. But I think that they’re actually a very good fit and you’re seeing it this year just because of what one may not as well, the other helps out in a different way with something that he does really great, so I think it’s actually been able to show all year. It’s a whole lot better of a fit than many may love to say they are.
Tomer Azarly: What's the Wells Fargo Center been like this postseason? It sounded like fans were really engaged and into it during the first few games.
Tobias Harris: Oh man, that thing has been rocking. We knew when we first got the availability of fans to come into the arena, I said to the rookies, I said, “Listen there’s only about, I think, like 5,000 fans, but them fans are gonna have this thing popping and they’re gonna have this thing loud.' And they did and now we’re able to get like 50% capacity. or whatever it is, and they’ve just been bringing energy for us like night after night, day after day, game after game, Game 1, Game 2, that energy was amazing in the building. We fuel off that and they’re hard-nosed fans. They let us know if we’re not playing well, but they’ll also let us know when we’re balling.
Tomer Azarly: I need your honest thoughts on the newfound Luka-Boban bond that we’ve seen. I know you and Boban have had those hilarious commercials this year, so what’s going on there? Can you guys share Boban?
Tobias Harris: I don’t know man. Bobi, he tells me he’s my best friend, he’s out there taking photos with Luka, so I don’t know man. I don’t know if I can trust him anymore man.