Despite the Philadelphia 76ers‘ loss to the Golden State Warriors on the road, Joel Embiid was able to get his message across to the NBA, its fans, and more specifically, Draymond Green. Anyone who saw Embiid’s performance against the Dubs should have felt his memo reverberating through their bones — Joel Embiid is the best basketball player in the world right now. That statement only grew louder and louder with each point he added to his eventual massive total of 46.
For the game, he finished with 13 field goals made on just 23 attempts, nine rebounds, and eight assists. He was a +13 in his 37 minutes on the floor in a game in which the Sixers lost by eight points. Aside from magically springing the ability to chase down an all-time perimeter offensive talent like Stephen Curry on defense, Embiid did all he could to add to Philadelphia’s win column.
For those wondering why Joel Embiid seemed so locked in against Golden State, especially on offense, Draymond Green explained why in his post-game press conference:
“He [Joel] said, ‘You know why I played like that tonight? You said Joker was the hardest person to guard in the league. I took that personal.“— Draymond Green
Joel Embiid’s current warpath
Since the turn of March, Joel Embiid has averaged 35.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 2.2 blocks per game while shooting an astronomical 61 percent from the field. Keep in mind, this includes their blowout victory over the Chicago Bulls on March 22, in which he put up 12 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists in just 16 minutes and didn’t return in the second half.
This ridiculous stretch of play from Embiid has led the Sixers to a 10-3 record in the month of March, closing the gap between Philadelphia and the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics ahead of them in the Eastern Conference. The 76ers now sit just a game and a half back from the Cs for the second seed.
Embiid’s torrid run has also shifted the tides in the MVP conversation. He recently overpassed Nikola Jokic for the top spot in NBA.com’s MVP Ladder for the first time this season on March 17 and has held that rung since.
Apparently, earning that bid hasn’t been enough for Joel, as he’s averaging 38 points, 11.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 2.5 blocks since then, factoring out his half-game against Chicago, according to Statmuse. And yet, despite his undeniably dominant play, he’s seemingly only faced more criticism from his detractors.
The Philadelphia 76ers need the chip on Joel Embiid’s shoulder
While other all-time greats may be and have been praised for similar displays of obsessive competitiveness, Embiid’s has been met with condemnation from those who would rather see the Joker lift his third MVP trophy.
It’s no secret that Joel is very active on social media. While he’s not quite as direct as Kevin Durant in responding to his doubters, he has a prevalence for sending his replies via subtweets and other more low-key mediums.
For example, one of his recent likes on Twitter was a post from Sunday Night Football on ABC that asked the question: “How do you settle the debate over who is the ‘Greatest of All Time?'” The tweet answered its own inquiry with a video of Michael Jordan saying that the best way to resolve the discussion is with a head-to-head matchup, alluding to a potential 2018 Super Bowl clash between Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. That’s right, Joel Embiid dug up a tweet from 2018 to foreshadow his impending duel with Nikola Jokic on Monday, March 27.
If he handily wins that battle over Jokic like he did the first time this season — 47 points to Joker’s 24 and a seven-point win for the Sixers — that should settle the debate, right?
Probably not for his loudest haters. A quick scroll through the replies to Green’s quote about Embiid’s mentality heading into the matchup on Twitter will reveal critics claiming that Jokic lives “rent-free” in Embiid’s head and others crying along the same lines.
For Jordan, a similar quote would be dubbed as a killer instinct. For Kobe Bryant, his mamba mentality. For LeBron James, another bullet point in his résumé for the GOAT. But for Embiid, it’s corny.
As he’s shown time and time again, with the more resistance he’s met with, Joel Embiid’s dominance only grows more undeniable. For all of his denigrators, there’s only one valid claim left that truly separates Embiid from those aforementioned legends in the game: a lack of a championship.
For all intents and purposes, Joel Embiid has already established himself within the NBA’s pantheon. But if he can continue to use that chip on his shoulder to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a title, what more will be left to say?