Joel Embiid has cemented himself in basketball lore by winning the 2023 NBA MVP. The Philadelphia 76ers‘ center now sits amongst the game’s all-time great big men after a polarizing first nine years in the league.
With his first of back-to-back scoring titles in 2021-22, Embiid became the first center since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000 to lead the league in scoring and became the first foreign player ever to do so. Furthermore, Moses Malone was the last center to average over 30 points per game in a season back in 1982.
The following will briefly explore comparisons between centers in the Basketball Hall of Fame and the generational Embiid. Ideally, this will provide some perspective on how the 2023 MVP award will affect his legacy. The intent of this article was not to disrespect any of the Hall of Famers mentioned or downplay any of their achievements.
How does Embiid stack up against the competition?
The Knicks legend earned eleven All-Star Game appearances in his 17-year career, compared to Embiid’s current count of six. Ewing was honored with seven All-NBA selections, along with three All-Defense teams, while the 29-year-old Embiid currently sits at five and three, respectively. Ewing never won an MVP nor a scoring title but did average 21.0 points per game throughout his career with three organizations (Embiid 27.2 career PPG).
Although Parrish is most closely associated with the Boston Celtics, where he won three of his four championships, he spent time with four franchises. Parrish never was named to an All-Defense team and only made a pair of All-NBA teams, but was named to the All-Star team on nine occasions. The Celtics’ big man failed to record a season averaging 20+ points per game and averaged 14.5 points per game across his 21-year career. Embiid’s lowest scoring season, 20.2 points per game, occurred as a rookie.
Yao Ming and Vlade Divac
The Chinese icon was active for parts of eight NBA seasons and accrued an All-Star selection in each season. The Houston Rockets superstar was a member of an All-NBA team five times and scored 19.0 points per game throughout his NBA run.
Divac’s NBA playing tenure spanned sixteen years and three organizations. The former Sacramento Kings general manager was named to one All-Star team and never scored more than 16.0 points per game in a season. Embiid already comfortably clears the statistical bar set by Yao and Divac.
Pau Gasol and Chris Bosh
Widely known as Kobe Bryant’s Laker companion, Gasol will enter the Basketball Hall of Fame this fall alongside Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade. Across his 18-year career, the Spanish big was named to six All-Star teams (Embiid has six in his first seven active seasons), and four All-NBA teams (Embiid has five and counting). Embiid’s scoring ability at 27.2 points per game in his career is the clear separator, while Gasol was the second option on two championship teams.
Bosh was an 11-time All-Star in his 13-year career in Toronto and Miami. His Miami tenure resulted in his lone championship, while he was named to his only All-NBA team for the 2006-07 season as a Raptor. Bosh accumulated a career scoring mark of 19.2 points per game.
To give a comparison of a current center who is also on a Hall of Fame trajectory, Anthony Davis has been included in this conversation. Davis was named to the NBA 75th Anniversary Team of the Top 75 Players in NBA History while boasting eight All-Star game appearances, four All-NBA appearances, and four All-Defense teams and counting.
Davis has averaged 24.0 points per game throughout his career with New Orleans and the Lakers, along with 10.4 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 2.3 blocks, and 1.3 steals per game. Embiid’s career stat line is comparable: 27.2 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.7 blocks, and 0.9 steals per game. His 27.2 career points per game rank fifth in NBA history, just ahead of Davis’ current teammate, LeBron James.
In summary, Embiid’s MVP, six All-Star game appearances, five All-NBA selections, three All-Defense honors, and two scoring titles, further solidifies his status with the NBA’s elite. While Embiid’s resumé is absent of a championship, the Yaounde, Cameroon native is all but guaranteed to be enshrined amongst basketball immortality in the Basketball Hall of Fame, ironically overseen by Sam Hinkie-ouster Jerry Colangelo.