It’s Time To Start Showing Tobias Harris More Respect
When Tobias Harris agreed to re-sign with the Philadelphia 76ers during the summer of 2019, his Five Year contract worth 180 Million dollars became an excuse for Harris to be an easy target for Sixers' fans who were either angry the team did not bring back the enigmatic Jimmy Butler or who think that the organization overpaid to retain Harris.
Despite the fact that Harris agreed to a contract that was 10 Millions Dollars less than what an NBA "League Max" Contract would have allowed him to earn, people were still resentful of him. Even though Harris stepped up last season, many Sixers and NBA Fans on Social Media complained about him. When Harris was keeping the team together virtually during the Pandemic Shutdown, filling the leadership void by organizing Video Calls with teammates and going out of his way to help younger players work through the turmoil of 2020 between COVID-19 Concerns and Social Injustice Conversations, people dismissed Harris as a guy who was "overcompensating" for his contract.
But this season, many of those critics and "haters" seem to have gotten quiet because they are watching their worst fears: The 76ers are 28-13 this season and Tobias Harris is a major catalyst for the team's success. Under first year Head Coach Doc Rivers, the 28 year old Forward has found the consistency in his play that made him so attractive to Philadelphia when they traded for him back in February of 2019. Even though Harris had a slow start to the 2020-21 NBA season (averaging just 14.3 Points and shooting 40.5% on Field Goals in the first three games), Tobias has compiled 21 games scoring at least 20 Points since December 29, 2020.
While Joel Embiid's play has made him a candidate for this year's NBA MVP Award, Tobias Harris has proven to be the most important player for the 76ers this season. In the 17 games that Tobias Harris has tallied at least 20 Points and Six Rebounds, the team has a 15-2 record. Yes, that's 53.6 Percent of all the Sixers' win this year (15 out of 28) can be directly tied to Tobias Harris play on the court. When Tobias Harris shoots less than 40 Percent on his Filed Goal Attempts, the team is just 3-4 this season and when he missed time due to the NBA's COVID-19 Protocols, the 76ers had a 2-3 record with a Point Differential of -14 in those five games.
I am sure all of these facts and statistics may not swap or convince some people to change their minds about Tobias Harris, because some people are just angry and project their angst onto other people. But any honest and objective person who watches the 76ers this year can see how important Tobias Harris has been to their success. Yes, Harris is the only player in the top 20 of NBA Players in Highest Average Annual Salaries who has never been selected to the All-Star Game. But the All-Star Game is also a popularity contest and between the fan voting plus the coaches selecting the reserves along with the NBA Commissioner making unilateral decisions who gets to fill in for injured players, there's many variables for why Harris has not gotten that honor yet.
I purposely said "Yet" because as noted earlier, Tobias Harris is not even 30 years old and most NBA Analysts agree that the peak, prime years for a Professional Basketball player is in between 27 and 32 years of age. So in theory, Harris has four more years to play his best basketball and potential be selected to an NBA All-Star game roster. One of the members of Doc Rivers' coaching staff with the Sixers, Sam Cassell became an NBA All-Star at age 34 years old.
No matter how far the 76ers go in the playoffs this year, we have to appreciate the progress and growth from the team's three best players under the guidance of Doc Rivers and his coaching staff in their first year. Harris is averaging the highest Field Goal Shooting Percentage (51.1%) and Free Throw Shooting Percentage (89.3%) of his NBA Career this year. Harris has been a clutch player in the Fourth Quarter for the 76ers this year also, shooting 52.6 Percent on Three Pointers in the 4th Quarter (20th best in the NBA) along with ranking 39th in the NBA in Points Per Game in the 4th Quarter this year.
Tobias Harris deserves respect for his play on the court, leadership in the locker room, charity work in the community, he is doing it all to earn that 180 million dollar contract his signed two summers ago. But at the end of the day, despite all the evidence otherwise, just like the 2000 song “Playas Gon’ Play” says, it's true for a lot of areas of life: "Haters Gonna Hate". So if you're not a "Hater", then show Tobias Harris some respect on his name and his game.