(Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports via Reuters/Bill Streicher)
A shaky start
“And with the third pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select Joel Embiid from Yaoundé, Cameroon and the University of Kansas.”
The seven-foot center was now destined to be the face of the rebuilding franchise, a franchise that had a belief in developing a certain process. Unfortunately for the Sixers faithful, that destiny would have to be put on hold as a week before the 2014 season, the future candidate for Defensive Player of the Year would require foot surgery.
Another setback left the big man needing a second surgery, again on the same right foot, which would lead him to miss a second straight season, one that saw the tanking Sixers go 10-72 and finish with the worst record in the NBA. Despite Philadelphia doing so, Sixers fans such as myself, continued to believe and that the organization would turn things around. We had trust.
A sign of things to come – on and off the court
In 2016, the former Kansas Jayhawk made his NBA debut and did not disappoint. Embiid had 20 points, seven boards and two blocks in a loss to the Thunder of Oklahoma City. During the game, the fan base got a glimpse of what ‘The Process’ was all about. Embiid immediately showed himself to be a well-rounded big man, who had all the tools, but most importantly a player that has heart and passion for the game. Another setback later in the season would lead to Embiid only playing in 31 games for the 2016/17 season, yet he still finished second in Rookie of the Year voting behind Malcolm Brogdon and in front of teammate Dario Saric.
During the most recent offseason, Embiid developed an attitude that not many could have foreseen. He has always had a sense of humor, but now it was being made public. It started when he chose to wear his own jersey to a Philadelphia club earlier in the season after a career night. That is when the Twittershpere began to blow up and he gained massive popularity.
But it wasn’t just the off-court antics, like publically asking out Rhianna on Twitter, that got people’s attention; Embiid’s ability to back up his confidence with dominant displays on the court filled the Philly fan base with passion and more hype for the team than many years passed. He was a cross of a modern-day Shaquille O’Neal and the late great Meadowlark Lemon. He amazed the home crowds and silenced the fans on the road, giving up his body to fly into the stands to save an errant pass, diving on the floor for loose balls, and firing up the crowd with every big moment possible. Just about the only thing he hasn’t done is make a hook shot from the top of the Spectrum.
Personality, performance, process
In the 2017/18 season, the showmanship – on and off the court – has continued. Embiid is loved by fans everywhere throughout the league. He has been rewarded with a new contract, an All-Star selection, a 52-win season and maiden playoff berth. A Defensive Player of the Year Award potentially awaits.
The Process, while it may not be complete, has been an exciting ride this season and one of the best seasons in Sixers history. The now masked showman is thrilling in the playoffs and locked in a second-round matchup with the Boston Celtics. In a recent interview, Embiid explained how his statements and antics off the court are not only fuel for the team, but also inspiration for himself to go out and prove doubters wrong. He wants to be the best big man in the competition, and he has proven to have the tools – and personality – to become exactly that.
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