Joel Embiid, the Cameroonian forward for the Sixers, is still only just 26 years old. That fact may come as a bit of a shock to some fans, as he has been a part of the NBA for six years, if we look back at his initial draft in 2014.
Yes, his debut season did get delayed until 2016-17 due to persistent foot injuries, but since then, Embiid has shown that he has the potential to be one of the best players in the league, as seen by the fact that he made it to the All-Rookie First Team in his debut season despite playing just 31 games in that campaign.
He has also made it to three All-Star lineups, underlining his talent and potential, and Larry Brown has spoken about how he thinks that there are still several levels for Embiid to move up onto.
Speaking on a recent episode of the Sixers Talk podcast, Brown revealed how he had seen both Embiid and Ben Simmons, his fellow 76er, play as high-school kids when he was still coach of the Mustangs. Brown revealed that he had tried to sign both of them for SMU, and almost landed Embiid, but he eventually chose to go to the Kansas Jayhawks.
Brown has since had the chance to watch Embiid a lot, and learn about him and his game, as is a close friend of Bill Self, the head coach at Kansas, and thus gathered a lot of information on him during his time at the Jayhawks. He says that he is incredibly impressed with Embiid, and believes that he needs to put in a lot more work to fully realise his potential. Brown hopes that the new ESPN documentary series on the legendary Chicago Bulls side of the ‘90s, ‘The Last Dance’, can inspire Embiid, with Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant just two examples of players who took their game to the next level and transcended the sport to become global icons, through the hard work and dedication that they put in.
There have been some concerns recently about Embiid’s dedication and professionalism, with a video surfacing earlier this year of the Cameroonian in a VIP casino in Wisconsin, a day or so before a game for the 76ers. While that in itself is no crime, it can be bad for optics, especially if the team ends up losing the game or Embiid himself does not perform well. Michael Jordan is a prime example of how off-field exploits can have no effect on performances on the court, with his love for gambling being shown in great detail on ‘The Last Dance’. However, Embiid will have to ensure that this is the case for him too, with there being way too many cautionary tales about players who got easily distracted by the trappings of money and fame, and thus did not put in enough work to elevate their talent and make them even better than they were when they made their first breakthrough.
In that podcast episode, Brown went on to lavish praise on Ben Simmons as well, but criticized the way the current 76ers team is set up, with the team being the sixth seed in the playoffs if they do occur in the current format this season, due to their 39-26 record. However, one thing is for sure, that the 76ers’ success will be dependent to quite an extent on Embiid’s performances, and he is now entering that stage of his career where he has to become the main man and dominate his team and thus the sport, much like Bryant, Jordan and LeBron James have done in years gone by.