Tyrese Maxey has turned a lot of heads so far this season as a revelation for the 12-7 Philadelphia 76ers. Now given the keys to the offense, the fourth-year guard has emerged as an All-Star caliber player for the franchise, cementing his status as a centerpiece for the city and potentially, as the next great all-time player in Philly.
However, only few are aware that him even donning the 76ers colorway wasn’t supposed to happen. That Philadelphia was able to snag the Kentucky standout with the 21st pick in the 2020 NBA Draft was a pure stroke of luck, a serendipitous moment for a franchise that ultimately needed it after two unceremonious exits from stars initially thought of as cornerstones.
Serendipity in Philly? The mind-boggling reason why the 76ers were able to draft Tyrese Maxey
Lady Luck’s smiling act toward the 76ers began in 2020, the year of the Bubble, when the Heat faced the Thunder in the penultimate regular season game of that campaign. Both teams have already locked in their seedings, but the contest had massive implications for Philly’s posturing in the upcoming draft.
Oklahoma City owed a first-rounder to Philadelphia, but it was protected. The Thunder would keep it if it landed 1-20, but it would go to the 76ers if it was anywhere within the 21-30 range. Back then, both teams barely played their key players for obvious reasons, but the end result turned out to be one for the 76ers annals.
Miami led by 18 entering the final frame, but OKC’s reserves kept playing and closed the gap, with Mike Muscala sinking two three-pointers at the endgame to upend the Heat. The result? A meaningless win for the Thunder, a painless loss for the Heat, but a historic outcome for the 76ers. Had OKC lost that game in addition to their final one, Philly would have had to settle for their second-rounders in 2022 and 2023.
The stars have rarely aligned for the 76ers, but this one was so memorable for fans that they still glee with jubilance at Muscala for his inadvertant gift to the franchise, which funnily overshadowed the fact that he actually played for the team a season before. Even Maxey himself is aware of the good fortune brought out by the improbable scenario.
Alas, if the Philadelphia 76ers eventually win a championship with Tyrese Maxey, the franchise should go out of its way and send a ring to Mike Muscala as due diligence. Otherwise, we riot.