When the Philadelphia 76ers took Joel Embiid third overall in 2014, literally days after he underwent surgery for a foot fracture, the Sixers became the laughingstock of the NBA. There was no guarantee that Embiid would play that year thanks to complications from his injury. Eventually complications and further injuries cost Embiid the entirety of the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons. When Embiid made his debut this season, it was 970 days since his last game, or just over 2.5 years. The Sixers took a huge gamble on Embiid, but the gamble is paying off in a huge way. Joel Embiid is going to be the next big NBA superstar.
First, there was the buildup. Sixers fans had little to show for their #3 overall pick for over two years; they relied on pictures of him next to other players and shaky footage of him posting up chairs and awkward, short trainers or shooting free throws to sustain them. The myth grew, and as Hinkie & Co. preached for us all to trust the process—the process of rebuilding—Sixers fans transcribed that moniker onto Joel Embiid. After Hinkie left, the most promising thing left to trust in was Joel Embiid.
Embiid became The Process. The Sixers even go as far as to introduce him as Joel “The Process” Embiid. He has become the face of the franchise, and he became the face of the franchise in the same way that if Bigfoot strolled out of the forests of the Pacific northwest, it would be a massive deal. Embiid playing this season is literally a mythical creature come to life.
With Embiid on the sidelines with nothing to show for his first two seasons in the NBA, fans latched onto the shaky Vines and also Embiid the person. He loves Shirley Temples (almost as much as he loves Rihanna). He pops off on adult movie stars who try to pop off on him. He’s a goofy, young guy who is the perfect person to be the face of the NBA. Plus, he is possibly the best twitter follow in the NBA. He is all personality, as evidenced by him dancing with the Philly cheerleaders after they defeated the Knicks in the last second on Wednesday:
— Christian Crosby (@ChristianCrosby) January 12, 2017
All this doesn’t even get to the best part: Joel Embiid is a heck of a player. He is on a minutes restriction, but his size, speed, agility and skills all show that he is going to be a great player in the league for a long time. Per 36 minutes, Embiid is top ten in points and blocks, and he has DeMarcus Cousins-like points and rebounds numbers. Oh, and he’s shooting threes at a 38% clip this year. He’s super talented, and only 22 years old.
Many people wanted Joel Embiid to be a bust, and they will be sorely mistaken. He is a massive personality, a massive man and a massive talent. His game is completely different, but as an NBA personality, it’s hard to see Embiid as anything but Shaq for the Meme Generation. When LeBron James and Stephen Curry are on their way out, he will become the face of the NBA.
Sam Hinkie’s career in Philadelphia died so that the next great NBA icon could rise from his ashes. Joel Embiid is already the next big NBA star, and he’s hiding in plain sight. It’s time to Trust the Process.