The near-950 day wait is over. Joel Embiid has played a basketball game for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Late Night in the Phog is behind us, official Kansas basketball practices are underway, and the only things floating around in the basketball portion of my brain currently are the images of Joel Embiid finally playing in his first NBA basketball game.
If you follow me on Twitter, you know that I am an unabashed Joel Embiid fan. He is everything I love about sports: a supreme talent with a personality that is the antithesis of what we have grown to expect from modern athletes. Joel Embiid is a breath of fresh air. Confident, funny, outspoken, and a possibly, a generational talent.
For the first time, on Tuesday, October 4th, we got to watch Joel Embiid play in a professional basketball game. The wait has been tenuous, but it appears the 948-day delay (his last live basketball action was March 1, 2014 as a freshman at Kansas) will be worth it. Embiid played only 13 minutes in his debut as he is currently on a fairly strict minutes restriction, but the former Jayhawk showed glimpses of brilliance in those 13 minutes.
The box score numbers may not be flashy (six points, four rebounds, and two blocks), but the things he did on the floor Tuesday night gave Sixers fans hope. Sam Hinkie’s ‘process’ might just have been worth it after all. Let us dissect.
Here, Embiid gets his first real test at the rim, as Celtics 3rd overall pick Jaylen Brown attempts to ensure that Embiid’s first professional game also results in his first appearance on a poster. Instead, Brown’s idea serves as a reminder of Embiid’s breathless athleticism, as the former Big 12 defensive player of the year erases the former Cal Bear with an incredible block at the rim.
It took nearly the entire first quarter for Embiid to score his first NBA points, but he did it in an emphatic way. Securing the ball on the nearside block, Embiid first faces up before backing down Tyler Zeller, eludes help by Jonas Jerebko, and finishes with a sweet fall away jumper from the mid-post.
Videos of Embiid’s rehab workouts have been all we’ve had to satisfy our Embiid fix these past couple of seasons. Many of them showed Joel showing off uncanny range for a player of his stature. Finally, we got to see it unfold in game action, as here (around :25), Embiid, left open off of a double team, steps back and knocks down a long two-pointer. With the way the game of basketball has evolved, where players such as Anthony Davis and Karl Anthony-Towns are becoming nearly unguardable due to their ability to knock down long-range shots, Embiid’s ability to do the same could put him in that very category.
I know it is only preseason NBA basketball, but being able to watch Joel Embiid play for the first time since 2014 was a treat. His talent is limitless, his personality perfusive, and his confidence, as always, legendary:
“I thought I was going to come out and score like 40 points.” – Embiid
— Jessica Camerato (@JCameratoCSN) October 5, 2016