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Tyrese Maxey feels ‘blessed’ his family is OK after house fire

Maxey's home in Voorhees caught fire as his family gathered on Christmas Eve.

Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey dribbles the basketball against the Utah Jazz on Thursday, December 9, 2021 in Philadelphia.
Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey dribbles the basketball against the Utah Jazz on Thursday, December 9, 2021 in Philadelphia.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

WASHINGTON — As Tyrese Maxey’s family gathered in his kitchen on Christmas Eve, his youngest sister, Denasia, smelled something burning.

Maxey’s two sisters, nieces and grandmother evacuated the Voorhees home first. Then Tyrese stepped outside, saw flames pushing through the windows on the entire left side, and dialed 911.

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The fire caused significant property damage to the 76ers point guard’s South Jersey residence, along with an unexpected family scare during the holiday weekend. But he is grateful he and every visiting relative is safe and unharmed.

“That’s really all that matters,” Maxey said before Sunday’s Sixers shootaround ahead of their game against the Wizards. “As long as we were alive, everything else is [just] material. Everything else can be replaced.”

Maxey said he was still waiting for official word on what exactly caused the fire. Camden County spokesperson Dan Keashen said it was deemed accidental and started in the garage.

When they realized the danger, Maxey’s uncle and mother, Denyse, tried to retrieve an upstairs fire extinguisher, but “it was too late after that,” Tyrese said. His father, Tyrone, ran to the basement to grab his wallet and phone. They made sure Tyrese’s 10-month-old Cane Corso, Apollo, also got out safely. Tyrese did not think to grab anything besides his two cellphones, which were already in his pocket.

When word of the emergency reached the Sixers, senior director of logistics and team relations Allen Lumpkin helped Maxey and his family make arrangements to stay at a local hotel. The organization supplied team gear as replacement clothing. Teammates and staff reached out in support.

“People have to realize, they may think we have Superman capes on, but real-life things happen to us,” said reserve forward Georges Niang, who has grown close to Maxey this season. “The fact that he had to go through that in a time that you want to enjoy time with your family, especially with his hectic schedule … this is when you’ve really kind of got to put your arm around a guy like that.

“He’s young, and life is bigger than basketball, especially when stuff like that hits home.”

The 21-year-old Maxey flashed his typical positive presence while recounting the frightening experience. Yet he acknowledged he “kind of broke down in tears” when, after gifts were salvaged from the home so his family could have “some kind of Christmas,” he noticed his nieces did not have any to open. The adults had planned to put the kids’ presents under the tree late Christmas Eve, creating a bigger next-morning reveal. But all that was left for his nieces were a couple presents Tyrese had bought for them but not yet wrapped.

“It’s tough times,” Maxey said. “But we stick together as a family. We stick together as a whole.”

The fire is the latest in a series of on- and off-court challenges for Maxey in recent weeks of what overall has been a breakout second NBA season.

In Charlotte earlier this month, he missed his first game of the season with a non-COVID-19 illness. After getting kneed in the thigh in a Dec. 15 loss to Miami, he sat out the next two games before totaling 17 points, three assists and three steals off the bench in a Dec. 23 loss to Atlanta. On Christmas Day, Maxey was briefly placed in health and safety protocols, but said he “kept testing negative” and was back with the team in time for Sunday’s shootaround. He finished with 13 points and four assists and was a game-high plus-31 in the Sixers’ 117-96 victory over the Wizards.

Maxey is not quite sure what comes next after the fire. His family is scheduled to leave the Philadelphia area to return home to Texas on Monday. He will continue on to Toronto with his team for Tuesday’s game against the Raptors, then to Brooklyn for Thursday’s showdown against the Nets.

And he is grateful that they can all return to some sense of normalcy following the unexpected Christmas scare.

“It’s been a very interesting 48 hours for me,” Maxey said. “But hey, I’m blessed to be here. Blessed to be alive. I get to do what I love right now and play basketball. My family’s good, and I’m just glad to be here.”