On the Beat: Gala Helps Launch Sixers Youth Foundation

By Brian Seltzer
Sixers.com Reporter
Posted: Mar 10, 2016

PHILADELPHIA – On Thursday evening, the 76ers launched a landmark initiative in memorable style.  With present coaches and players, past stars, and supportive guests in attendance, the organization formally inaugurated the Sixers Youth Foundation by hosting a sold-out gala on the floor of the famed Palestra, located on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania.

“We spend a lot of time talking about the impact that basketball and the Sixers can have on the community,” Sixers Chief Executive Scott O’Neil said moments before the event got underway.  “The foundation is one step further.  We’re here to raise some money for some kids that need it.  With the foundation, it will actually help us drive outcomes using leadership.”

Thursday’s event, dubbed an “Evening on the Court,” was underwritten by StubHub and the Sixers’ ownership team, including Managing Owner Josh Harris and Co-Managing Owner David Blitzer.  There were food stations – think dumplings, sliders, even a bacon bar – and selfie stations, along with silent auctions, Pop-A-Shot, and a life-size version of the game Connect 4.

Funds that were raised at the loose, business casual, interactive affair will be put to use towards helping the Sixers enrich the lives of area children.

According to O’Neil, the core set of values adopted by the Sixers Youth Foundation were influenced, in part, by the team’s head coach.

“A lot of stuff we actually took from Brett Brown, incorporating leadership and basketball in education,” O’Neil said.  “Hopefully, we create or help be part of the next generation of great leaders in Philadelphia.”

Brown, members of his staff, and all of the Sixers’ players, including Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel, and Jahlil Okafor, mingled with the crowd throughout the night.  The mindset and belief system Brown strives to instill in his group is also one that he thinks can be applied to the development of young people.

“We talk about all the great players that we’ve been around that they have a routine, there’s a rhythm to their day,” said Brown.  “They really sort of lock into something and form a habit, and try to do stuff day-by-day.  Whether that’s a school habit, whether that’s a skill habit with a sport, basketball maybe, to try to just share how to have some level of discipline, even at a young age, of how you can improve and get better.”

“In a classroom, soccer field, with a tennis racket, basketball, whatever, just try to put those professional practices in place, even when they’re young, to let them recognize the importance of goal-setting, routine, rhythm to your day, habit-forming things, and try to help them get better.  It’s really not that different than what we do with my 20 year olds.  It’s by and large the same type of philosophy.”

Nerlens Noel said, “It means a lot to come out here, and hold something like this, to be able to give back to the youth, and just picturing myself at a young age, wanting to always be in a position like this.  It means a lot to be able to give back to the next generation.”

Julius Erving, Allen Iverson, and World B. Free were on hand Thursday evening, representing the Sixers Alumni Association.  Jordin Sparks, who won the 2007 edition of American Idol, performed as well.