A crucial three-pointer in the waning seconds of regulation propelled Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid and his teammates to a thrilling 119-116 victory over the Miami Heat on Sunday night. The moment that would have sent Sixers fans into an absolute frenzy instead delivered joy for both teams and may be something special going forward.
The “how old is joel embiid” is a question that has been asked for years. Joel Embiid, the Philadelphia 76ers’ star center, is finally living up to his potential and fulfilling the promise he showed on the basketball court as a teenager.
Joel Embiid will remember the events of May 12, 2019 for the rest of his life.
That was the day a 22-ounce ball of leather caused a 280-pound monster of a man to cry and sob in front of 20,000 enemy supporters and millions more watching from afar. In 2014, when his 13-year-old brother and closest friend, Arthur, was hit and murdered by a car on his way home from school in Cameroon, that same guy discovered just how much he loved the simple game he almost walked away from.
The day he pledged he would go to whatever length to win a world title for his new city of Philadelphia.
“I want to be up there,” she says.
“However, you must win a championship.” Alternatively, there are championships. That is my ambition.”
-Joel Embiid on seeing 75 greatest players in NBA history honored pic.twitter.com/DNg6fGwBcp
— John Clark (@JClarkNBCS) February 21, 2022
Three years later, Embiid still remembers that day. What’s more, who could blame him? Embiid felt his whole soul leave his body as Kawhi Leonard’s last-second heave bounced not once… not twice… not three times… but four times on the rim and touched the nylon below to knock the Philadelphia 76ers out of the 2019 NBA playoffs.
All he could do was stand there, hands on his head, in disbelief as a sea of white suffocated his 7-foot body. He sank into Marc Gasol’s loving arms like a fatigued kid with no control over his limbs as the shock subsided and reality set in. Then there were the tears.
Tears from the rough, burly core that we had never seen before. Tears welled up in his eyes as he walked from the chaos of the Scotiabank Arena court to the quiet calm of the away locker room. Embiid will never forget that picture, which he still uses to taunt him after every defeat on Twitter, but it signifies so much more than an embarrassing GIF.
That picture of Embiid, red-faced and nasty, sobbing like a Bachelor candidate about to be ejected, illustrates how much he wanted to win for Philly and how close he came. A few weeks later, the Toronto Raptors won the NBA championship. It might have been Embiid and the Sixers celebrating on Broad Street if Leonard’s miracle shot had rebounded one inch backward instead of straight that day.
Three years later, Embiid returned to Toronto as a completely different person. He’s currently a two-time MVP finalist, a scoring champion, and one of the world’s top three basketball players. He, on the other hand, is unconcerned about any of it.
Embiid has been playing with the Larry O’Brien Trophy in his sights since his heart split into 76 pieces in 2019. In 2022, the Sixers will have another opportunity to win that prized trophy, but they’ll have to first overcome Toronto and the house of horrors that is Scotiabank Arena.
Embiid seemed to be adding another chapter to his book of sorrow in his first playoff journey back to The 6 since 2019. The All-NBA center had as many turnovers as points in the first half (five), and the Sixers were behind 17 points early in Game 3.
The old Embiid would have begun pressing difficult shots and digging the 76ers deeper, but this isn’t the old Embiid. The 28-year-old let the game come to him, attacking mismatches when he could, and forcing overtime by tying the Sixers late in the fourth quarter.
Danny Green moved over to the left sideline opposite the Raptors bench as the game was tied at 101 with 2.6 seconds remaining in overtime – the same exact place where Toronto inbounded the ball to Leonard three years ago. This time, though, it was Embiid’s turn to be the hero.
He didn’t need the rim’s assistance this time.
All of Embiid’s pent-up emotions spilled out of him at once as he swished the game-winning three to steal the collective soul of 20,000 spectators who celebrated in his pain three years earlier. Exuberant shrieks and a childlike jubilation replaced the tears that had previously blanketed the same court, signaling the exorcism of Embiid’s long-standing demons.
He not only exacted vengeance on the city of Toronto, but he also demolished the myth that he isn’t a closer.
The Toronto Raptors’ Fred VanVleet watches as the Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid celebrates his game-winning three-pointer in Game 3 | Cole Burston/Getty Images
It was a fantastic experience for me as a Sixers fan to see Embiid dance around the Scotiabank Arena floor with total and utter delight running through his body. I can’t fathom how liberating that was for him. He’s worked really hard in recent years to put the horror of May 12, 2019 behind him and become the finest player on the planet.
Wednesday night’s heroics were a vital first step, and you can easily see that shot in slow motion as the opening sequence of Philadelphia’s championship DVD in 2022.
What’s not to like about Joel Embiid?
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