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Checkmate with the 76ers: Daryl Morey, Paul Reed, and De’Anthony Melton team up for chess event!


Daryl Morey, Paul Reed and De’Anthony Melton hosted local students at the 76ers’ practice complex to play chess.

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Philadelphia 76ers hosted an event at their training complex for nearby students centered around chess. De’Anthony Melton, Paul Reed and Daryl Morey were joined by professional chess player Levy Rozman, also known as GothamChess, and students from nearby schools at the team’s practice facility to flex their mental muscles in friendly matches.

This is the second year that Melton hosted the event dubbed Melton’s Make Your Move. Chess has been a key part of Melton’s life since high school, giving him a productive outlet that also helps him get closer to those in the 76ers organization. Since being traded to Philly, it has also provided a pathway to connect with the local community. This year’s event hosted 20 students from the Camden Academy Charter High School and The Knight School, a youth organization dedicated to teaching the game.

“I played against two kids that were under 10 [years old] but the competition level is still high and their IQ for it is still amazing. All that type of stuff, it’s good for me, too,” said Melton, who amiably hosted the event as he recovers from a back injury.

Reed joined a chess club in elementary school. “Ever since then,” he said,it’s been really fun, competitive. Whenever I play anybody, I feel I have to win. I feel like I love games that stoke the mental. Like, it’s not easy. We really gotta figure it out, how to win. It’s just fun.”

Reed’s competitiveness was established from the get-go of the event. After he walked into the room, he asked the kids which one of them was the best chess player. The match was close and intense, ending with the 76ers center coming out on top.

Melton said that he learned of Morey’s interest in chess when he joined the 76ers. “We played a little bit and I realized how good he was and we haven’t really played after that,” Melton joked. 

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Morey said that, like Reed, he got into chess in his youth. He said that he “played pretty serious” until he was about 13 years old and now plays daily games in between his busy moments of the day. He enjoys how the game doesn’t possess any elements of randomness like a roll of dice or the draw of a card. “It was very clear if you won, you won. You couldn’t blame something else,” he said.

The event was a chance for Morey, Melton and Reed to meet some fans and play one of the games they love. The one with hoops and a round ball that has united them in Philly served as a backdrop for the afternoon. Both 76ers players and the team’s president of basketball operations played multiple games, signed autographs, posed for pictures and complimented the kids on their talent.

“We love beating up on small children, so that’s the main focus,” Morey jokingly quipped.No, I think it’s great, especially for Paul and De’Anthony, to be here and for [the kids] to see they’re not just high basketball IQ on the court, they’re high IQ in all their walks of life. And I know De’Anthony really loves this event ’cause he gets to meet the kids and he loves chess. It’s fun to help him with that.”

Paul Reed, De’Anthony Melton play chess before 76ers games

Philadelphia 76ers forward Paul Reed (44) and guard De'Anthony Melton (8) defend Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo (13) during the first half at Kaseya Center.
Rhona Wise-USA TODAY Sports

Roughly an hour before 76ers games, Reed and Melton can be found getting in a quick game of chess. They set a timer for just 10 minutes but will lock in and square off on the grid before heading back out to the hardwood, which Melton says helps get their minds going.

“It’s competitive. You gotta go quick and that’s what makes it harder,” Reed said. “You can’t really think about your move as much.”

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Both Reed and Melton believe Reed has the superior record in their head-to-head matchups. So far, the chess expertise doesn’t extend to anyone else on the roster. Melton said that, in addition to Reed, he plays against Sixers conditioning coaches Ben Kenyon and Stephen Brindle and team chef Julie Cushing. The only teammate he mentioned aside from Reed who plays chess was Tobias Harris.

“Recently, I played Tobias once. He’s not good,” Melton said with a smile.He tried though, so I think that’s the biggest thing.”

Chess is a game that can be enjoyed by anybody but certainly takes time to master. Reed believes that the intense games he plays with Melton make it a bit intimidating.

“I don’t think nobody wants that smoke,” Reed said when asked if any other teammates have shown an interest in learning the game. “I feel like, like I said, it gets pretty competitive before games when we playing in the room, everybody’s watching, you got people on the sideline commentating. It’s a lot of pressure sometimes. I don’t think people are trying to handle all that.”

While the rules of chess may take some time to understand, Reed and Melton know that any 76ers teammates who show an interest will already have a grasp of the two-sided strategy and focus on seeing the bigger picture, key elements to both games.

Daryl Morey, Paul Reed see similarities between basketball and chess 

Philadelphia 76ers resident of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey speaks with the media before a game against the Detroit Pistons at Wells Fargo Center.
Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

At last year’s event, Melton explained that patience and the ability to think several moves in advance make basketball and chess similar. The lessons of the board game, he said, can apply well to everyday life. Morey and Reed see how the chess board and basketball court require a similar level of anticipatory thinking to excel.

“The main crossover is just the skills of thinking a few moves ahead,” Morey said. “On the basketball court, De’Anthony or Paul have to know, ‘If I make this move, the help’s gonna come from here, so the likely pass that’ll be open will be here. They’ll probably go under the screen so if they do, I’m gonna have to shoot my shot.’”

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Reed said that his strategy on chess is to “stick to defense” and that “once I know my pieces are secure, that’s when I go and be in aggressive mode.” An identity around attacking off of the foundation of defense is nothing new for Reed, whose intensity around the rim propels confidence in his shooting and aggression on the glass, particularly on offense.

The balance between offense and defense, Reed said, is key in both games. Focusing too much on one side can lead you too vulnerable on the other. Each game possesses sequences used to achieve specific outcomes, which add layers of strategic complexity.

“Playing a lot, you see these patterns you recognize,” Morey said. “It’s all about pattern recognition.”

For as much as the games have in common, their perception can often be quite different. It’s obvious that chess isn’t perceived to be as cool as basketball to most people. That won’t stop some of the top players in the world — some from several other NBA teams, too — from indulging.

“I mean, it is a pretty nerdy game, I’m not gonna lie,” Reed said. “I feel like you have to be smart to be able to win. Not everybody is smart, the type of people who would call kids nerds or something like that because they’re not smart themselves.”

While the typical jock and nerd stereotypes don’t carry out into the world as they would in a TV show or movie, there is an undeniable intrigue of huge, fiercely competitive athletes possessing a sincere passion for a board game. That, plus the 76ers players’ willingness to share their fondness of the game with local students, made for a very fun yet competitive event.

“A lot of NBA players are really nerdy,” Reed said. “You don’t get this far without being some type of smart.” 


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