There are few players who encompass the heartbeat of a city in the way that Joel Embiid has been able to. Despite his monstrous size and incredible basketball ability, Embiid remains one of the most relatable human beings on the planet. He wears his heart on his sleeve and is never afraid to state exactly how he is feeling. This brutal honesty and unfiltered personality have been criticized around the NBA but endeared the superstar to the city of Philadelphia.
There is no better example of this than Embiid’s reaction to the Sixers’ exit in the 2019 series. Along with the entire city of Philadelphia, Embiid’s heart was shattered during the Kawhi Leonard shot, which hit the rim an ungodly amount of times before falling through. This secured the Game 7 win for Toronto, sending the Sixers home while the Raptors went on to win the championship this season. Embiid did not make it off the court before tears started leaking down his face, only for him to be made a meme online for the waterworks.
Three years later, and in the same building, Embiid got his revenge. The big man knocked down a fadeaway three the extend the Sixers’ series lead to 3-0. Embiid has played like a man possessed and is making a statement about how the Sixers should be considered legitimate contenders.
The shot had to feel even better for Embiid, considering how the game had played out beforehand. The Raptors threw their best heavyweight shot at the Sixers in the first game and saw positive results. In the first half, Embiid scored just 5 points and turned the ball over 5 times. There were signs of the Joel Embiid that have been seen in the postseason in years past. Embiid attempted to do too much on his own, was inaccurate in passing out of double-teams, and seemed flustered by the Raptors’ defense.
This changed in the second half as Embiid got back to his dominant self. He ended the game with 33 points and 13 rebounds while making some valuable plays defensively. The Sixers, led by Embiid, managed to scrap to a victory despite never having a lead in regulation. No points were more important than the shot he hit to end the game.
This also snaps a discouraging streak for Joel Embiid, as he was 0-14 on game-winning shots prior to this three-pointer. He let his emotions shine and gave the Sixers a massive edge in the series by jumping to the 3-0 lead. This shot had been a long time coming for Joel Embiid and will likely go down as a career-defining moment.
As the national media begins to be shocked by Embiid’s impressive level of play, they are quickly finding out what those who have watched him all season already know. It has been a different version of Joel Embiid this season. Whether it is his growth in maturity, polish in skill, shift in offensive style, or likely some it all — Joel Embiid has grown into a superstar above the level the Sixers could have ever hoped for.