Every NBA fan has their favorite player to root for. Usually it’s a top 10 player, or whoever happens to be the best player on their favorite team. While I do enjoy watching some of the best scorers like James Harden or Steph Curry, lately I’ve grown fond of one lesser known player: T.J. McConnell, the undrafted guard from the 76ers.
Averaging about 7 points, 2 rebounds and 4 assists from the bench, T.J. is far from an elite player (at least for the time being). But what makes him valuable — and the reason why I like him so much — is that he is a hard working player with a contagious spirit.
He first came into my radar during the 2017-2018 season, when the Sixers became my go-to team to watch. I noticed how competitive he was. And let’s face it, when you are as athletically disadvantaged like him, you have no choice but to give your all in every game.
Even when he’s on the bench, he’s always visibly enthusiastic over his teammates’ successes, which makes him a source of energy for the team.
“He has value. He’s very important in my eyes to us. His history with the program, the cultural responsibility that he has, the bonding with many of our current players makes him extremely valuable.”Sixers coach, Brett Brown. Source
But he’s not just a great teammate; he is also a favorite among Philadelphians. During home games, you can hear fans get especially excited whenever he scores or makes great plays.
The reason why I like him is that he has such a great underdog story. After college, he could have easily believed that he wasn’t cut out for the NBA and that would have been the end of it. But instead he believed in himself. And even though he wasn’t drafted he still found a coach to take a chance on him. Not only did he make it in a team, but he was able to have good minutes. Against all odds, he found his niche.
It’s amazing to see his fearlessness in the face of bigger, more athletic players. For me, he is a constant reminder that confidence goes a long way.
I hope he has long NBA career. Either way, I’ll be rooting for him along the way.
To learn more about his story and how much he had to overcome to get to where he is, I recommend this great interview from The JJ Redick Podcast.