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Joel Embiid’s Impact Is Even Bigger Than We Thought

When the Philadelphia 76ers drafted Joel Embiid, the seven-foot center out of the University of Kansas, in 2014, we had heard that he was a decent player with plenty of upside. If it weren’t for his foot and back injuries, he most likely would have been the first overall pick that year. The comparisons between he and all time greats such as Hakeem Olajuwon started pouring in, but Sixers fans remained skeptical. Who could blame them? After all, he would end up re-injuring his navicular bone and would sit out for two years. The city remained patient, and in the meantime, the team would continue to lose night after night, ultimately leading to the chance to grab up Ben Simmons first overall in last June’s draft. We all marveled at the passing, vision, and leadership qualities that Simmons showed during the summer league, and lost in the shuffle was the return of Joel Embiid. When Simmons suffered a Jones fracture in his foot, the spotlight then shined solely on Embiid at the start of the season, and despite having a minutes restriction, playing through rust, and learning the game at the pro level, he has been opening eyes throughout the NBA.

The numbers that he is putting up are mind-boggling for a guy still getting his legs under him. He currently has a 10-game streak of scoring 20 points or more, which is one game shy of Allen Iverson’s franchise rookie record. Only one rookie had a better points-scored-per-minute rate than Embiid. That player was Wilt Chamberlain in 1959 (29.2 to Embiid’s 28.0).

Embiid’s defense is no joke. He has been racking up rebounds and swatting away shots on a consistent basis. In fact, Embiid recently said that he wants to one day become the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year. His presence inside is now a known factor around the league, just ask the Bucks’  rookie phenom, the “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo, who on several occasions was reluctant to drive in the paint against Embiid during their meeting last week. You can talk to opposing coaches when they see Embiid go from one side of the floor to the other in a millisecond to reject a shot. You can also ask LeBron James if he ever found the ball that Embiid batted away into another solar system.

During his two years out of the game, he gained a massive following on Twitter and remains one of the best follows on the social media site with his witty comments, his desire to date singer Rhianna, and his attempts to get All-Star votes. The personality of “The Process” is unlike anything we have had here in the city in a long time. When you think back to some others that may compare, Allen Iverson (his effort and the way he fired up the crowd), Keith Jones (with his quick wit and his playful demeanor), and Brian Dawkins (the leadership and lack of fear while playing the game), they still don’t quite relate to the extremely infectious personality that we are experiencing with Embiid. As lovable as Iverson was, he was still a polarizing figure in this city. With Embiid, I have yet to hear a negative thing about him.

The impact that Joel Embiid can make on the future of the Sixers goes beyond what he accomplishes on the court. I am expecting Philadelphia to be a much more attractive place for free agents coming up this summer. Whether the Sixers spend the money is another story, but I would be hard pressed to find a player who wouldn’t want to play alongside a dominant big man, who above all is a good teammate and a good person. The way he embraces his teammates both on and off the court shows you that he deeply cares about what is happening here. So much to the point that he has the city mumbling the word “playoffs”.

He is quickly becoming not only the face of the Sixers franchise, but a face of the Philadelphia sports landscape. We fell in love with Carson Wentz this past fall, and rightfully so. However, despite this city being a football town, there’s something different here. Wentz is going to be a fantastic player who will most likley be here for a long time and, like Embiid, he hopes to one day bring a parade to Broad Street with his respective team. But Embiid seems to be more in the limelight, much more in-your-face, if you will. Plus, the NBA is more of an individual-based sport so it’s easier to lock in on a particular player in the NBA. The Phillies recently traded Ryan Howard and Carlos Ruiz, the last of the World Series winners, and the team is now left with a very fresh faced team, many of whom could walk by you on the street and you probably wouldn’t notice them. The Flyers are another team with young talent, but as unfair as it may be, it’s a rare occasion that a hockey player is the face of this city. So with that being said, I am pretty sure Embiid welcomes the task of representing this city, as he doesn’t seem to let any pressure get to him, even if that means being the main cog in putting an end to the misery that’s been 76ers basketball for quite some time now.

I had a feeling that when healthy, he was going to be an impactful player, but this early, despite everything stacked up against him, I did not expect this. Especially this early in his career. #Trusttheprocess has finally come to fruition, thanks to “Jo Jo”. And don’t turn your head, because once Ben Simmons steps on the floor with him, Embiid will only get better.

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