Is Joel Embiid the Sixers next generational superstar?

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There have been so many great players throughout NBA history. Players who have had amazing careers. Players like Shawn Marion, Larry Johnson, Willis Reed, Chris Bosh, Robert Horry and Dwight Howard have all had great careers, but not legendary careers.

When you think of legendary players you think of players like Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, Allen Iverson and Shaquille O’Neal. These players, at one point or another, have been the face of of their respective franchises. They have carried the torch of greatness for their teams.  

Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal are all Laker legends. Larry Bird, Bill Russell, Paul Pierce and Kevin McHale are all Celtics legends. The Lakers and Celtics are two of the three most historic teams in NBA history. The third would be the Philadelphia 76ers.

The Philadelphia 76ers have such a rich basketball history. Philadelphia is home to some of the most passionate fans in basketball history. They respect and appreciate greatness when it arrives in Philly.

That is exactly why players like Allen Iverson, Julius Erving, Moses Malone and Charles Barkley have always had a soft spot for the Sixers and the City of Brotherly Love. These players have become ingrained not only into 76ers history but Philadelphia history as well.

There’s another player on the horizon who could become the next Philadelphia legend. The 7’2” Cameroonian center Joel Embiid has the potential to be the next torch carrier as the face of the franchise.

Joel Embiid was drafted with the third overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. He more than likely would have gone first to the Cleveland Cavaliers had it not been for a broken navicular bone in his right foot. Former Sixer General Manager Sam Hinkie took a chance on the injured big man and he joined the Sixers.

He sat out his entire rookie season and then suffered a setback in his recovery that required a second surgery on his right foot, which forced him to miss his second season in a row. Embiid finally set foot on the court on October 27, 2016, posting 20 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks.

He was showered with “MVP” and “Trust the Process” chants by the 20,000 plus fans that had long awaited his debut in attendance that night. “Trust the Process” is a phrase that Sixer fans live by. Largely due to the rebuilding efforts of Sam Hinkie, the franchise found itself constantly losing. However, the fans did not lose hope. They developed the mantra and Embiid did more than just welcome it. He encouraged fans to refer to him as “The Process”, a nickname that will go down as one of the best Sixer nicknames ever along with the likes of “The Answer” and “Dr. J”.    

Unfortunately, Embiid did not last long in his debut season. He suffered a knee injury in late January that ended his astounding rookie season. Through 31 games, he averaged 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 2.4 blocks while only playing 25.4 minutes per game.

Joel Embiid has already achieved a few impressive feats in 31 games. He made 1.5 threes per minute per 36 minutes, which is better than Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Dirk Nowitzki and Larry Bird. He also tied Michael Jordan for most points per 36 minutes in NBA history with 28.3. Now that’s not saying much considering that he has only played 758 career minutes and Jordan has played 41,011. It does still show the amount of promise and talent that Embiid has.

Embiid has often drawn comparisons to one of the best centers in NBA history, Hakeem Olajuwon. They both have a soft touch around the rim and are great rim protectors. Embiid has Hakeem’s patent “dream-shake” as a weapon in his arsenal and uses it frequently. His personality has been compared to that of the comical Shaquille O’Neal. They both know how to have fun on and off the court while destroying opponents at the same time. You can often find Embiid on Twitter, tweeting about popstar sensation Rihanna or posting a picture of himself drinking Shirley Temples. The media and fans have come to enjoy Embiid’s social media presence.

It’s no wonder the city of Philadelphia has come to embrace Joel Embiid. Such a talented big man who has overcome hardships to achieve his dream. A man who enjoys life even when life kicks him down. That is exactly why philly fans love him. They can relate to him. If Embiid can stay healthy and enjoy a long and prosperous NBA career, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Joel Embiid can be the next Philadelphia legend.  

 

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

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