Sixers Star Joel Embiid Channels Michael Jordan: ‘I’m Back’

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid reacts after the 76ers won an NBA basketball game against the Portland Trail Blazers, Friday, March 10, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid finally took home his long overdue MVP award after two straight years of controversial second-place finishes. The raw emotion on his face when the announcement came in, captured in a video released by the team, was too much to process.

See what we did there? Kidding. Embiid was moved to tears as his teammates chanted “MVP, MVP, MVP” and wrapped the 7-footer up in enough hugs to overflow the Boston Garden. James Harden was the first to get his paws on Embiid, quickly followed up by Tyrese Maxey who recorded the moment for posterity on his cell phone. Everyone soaked it in and let the emotion linger, then Embiid ended the five-minute celebration to deliver an important message.

“It would not be possible without you guys, all you guys,” Embiid said. “Not just the players, for the guys that have been here since The Process days, we’ve been through a lot. And thank you, guys, for always believing in me. Like I said, I appreciate you guys, and we gonna celebrate this, like I said, for five minutes — it’s been longer than five minutes — but we gonna do it and then focus on Game 2.”

Want better news than Embiid winning the MVP award? He’s coming back to the court for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals with a vengeance. According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Embiid turned to the team during the quick MVP celebration and uttered two words: “I’m back.” Maybe he was channeling Michael Jordan’s epic comeback announcement from 1995, or perhaps it was nothing more than his way of updating the injury report. Either way, Embiid appears locked and loaded for Game 2 against the Celtics in Boston. The Sixers lead the best-of-seven series 1-0, with tip-off slated for 8 p.m. on May 3. Process that.

Joel Embiid Participates in Sixers’ Shootaround in Boston

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Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) shoots against Cleveland Cavaliers forward Evan Mobley during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 15, 2023, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

If anyone needed further proof that Embiid was indeed returning to the hardwood, there is now actual visual evidence. ESPN’s Tim Bontemps shared a video of Embiid participating in Tuesday morning’s shootaround at TD Garden in Boston.

Embiid was still walking a tad gingerly on his injured right knee — diagnosed as a sprained LCL — as he fired off jumpers from just beyond the free-throw line. He wasn’t shown running or posting up, two things that will be tested in this series if Game 1 was any indication of things to come. It was a track meet, with head coach Doc Rivers admitting his guys were gassed early in the first quarter.

“I thought the first five minutes of the game, we were gassed,” Rivers told reporters, via Ky Carlin. “If you don’t play playoff basketball for a week and they’re flying, you’re exhausted so when he does come back and that’s Game 2, Game 3, he’s gonna be tired and we’re gonna have to monitor that as well.”