CAMDEN, NJ — Prior to joining the Philadelphia 76ers, De’Anthony Melton earned the nickname “Mr. Do Something” for his tremendous versatility on the court. All season long, the Sixers have leaned on him to excel in as many areas as he can to help the team. In a change of pace, he tapped into one specific interest of his to support the local community: chess.
On an off-day in between Sixers home games, he hosted “Melton’s Make Your Move, ”a chess tournament for students in a collaborative effort with the After School Activities Partnership. Melton said that he started playing the game in high school, observing how others were playing in study hall. Once he got the movement of the pieces down pat, he started “adding my own spin onto it” and has played almost every day since then, including game days.
“Chess is something I play on a regular basis against my teammates, my friends, staff,” Melton said on Thursday afternoon at the Sixers’ training complex. “So, I really wanted to see what other kids play. I feel like this is something I do to help my mental health. So, by talking with the team, talking with my agent, we set up an event to host kids to come play chess and just have a good time, test each other’s skills and see how everybody’s doing. ”
De’Anthony Melton kicks off the “Melton’s Make Your Move” chess tournament pic.twitter.com/4GaRd812BV
— Sam DiGiovanni (@BySamDiGiovanni) March 30, 2023
Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey made an appearance as he and Melton went from table to table to meet the kids and play games. Melton confidently claims that he’s the best chess player in the building and listed Morey, Paul Reed, strength and conditioning coaches Ben Kenyon and Stephen Brindle and team chefs Eli Collins and Julia Cushing as other members of the organization who play. It’s a brisk change of pace from his former team, the Memphis Grizzlies, as he said that he didn’t play with the team as much during his three years there.
Melton walked away with a 1-2 record on the day but, with a big grin, said that he’s not too sad because he knows he could have won the matches he lost. The kids were far from novices as 12 of them are scheduled to play in the U.S. Chess Federation’s national tournament that begins over the next few weekends (for different age groups). The four finalists from Melton’s 45-student tournament won an autograph from the Sixers guard and will receive tickets to a future Sixers game.
The silent, subtle movements of chess pieces pale in comparison to the physical, fast-paced action on the basketball court, where Melton is one of the Sixers’ key players. But in the strategy and game on the checkered grid, he sees a lesson that he takes with him not just on the court but everywhere in his life.
For NBA players like Melton, using a passion to give back to the community is the way to go. Earlier in the season, fashion and sneaker aficionado P.J. Tucker hosted a $500-per-person shopping spree at SNIPES group of students from a Philadelphia high school. Hosting a community event centered around chess comes as easily to Melton as hitting a spot-up triple or deflecting a pass from an opponent.
“It feels good because it doesn’t feel like a job or [like] you’re forced to do it,” Melton said. “It’s something I do, something I love to do so why not bring other people on board with it? I plan on wanting to do more tournaments, more openings and stuff like that — not even in Philly but just around the world because it’s something I love to do. I know it’s a lot of people that love to do it, too.”
While the Sixers gear up for the end-game of the 2022-23 season, Melton will be staying sharp and ready to contribute to a championship chase alongside Joel Embiid and James Harden.
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