Joel Embiid is well on his way to becoming the next “villain” of the NBA. I’m a fan of his game, as anyone should be. A 7’2” behemoth with ridiculous versatility on offense, and an aptitude for defense as well? Count me in. But while he’s on his way to stardom, he’s a player that has already ruffled some feathers.
Often overlooked was his performance in the All Star Game. Look back on the highlights, and you’ll see him working his ass off down low, and taking every defensive matchup personal, whether it was LeBron, Kyrie or Paul George. Down the stretch, things were even starting to get a little chippy (yes, in the All Star Game) as he was outmuscling players for putbacks and contributing to an intense atmosphere that had been missing for a while in past years of the exhibition.
With 1:30 to go and a 3 point lead, Embiid found himself matched up with the King on the perimeter. James went through his size up routine, and casually stepped back and drilled a 3. This came at a time in the game where it seemed as if players from Team LeBron were just taking turns at the young center on offense. So the next trip down, with the game still tied, George figured it was his turn.
George went between the legs twice, then blew by Embiid going left from the top of the key, just to get swatted off the backboard for his efforts. Though the LeBrons eventually won the thrilling game, it was evident that not only was the All Star Game watchable again, but Embiid had established himself as a true star, able to hang with the league’s best.
So what now? Now that we know Joel is worthy of being mentioned in the top 10 of current players, what does he do off the court? Instigate, joke, and just plain talk shit to other players with those Twitter fingers previous superstar villains never got a chance to utilize. Imagine if LeBron posted a picture on Instagram of him dunking all over KG, with a witty caption underneath. Not only would KG probably show up to his door with a machete and a hoodie barely on his head, but LeBron would be even more hated than he is today. It’s the same as the Ball effect: people get sensitive when you talk shit. Yet these same people whine about the “real rivalries” and the “physicality” of yesteryear. Players are too friendly with one another. LeBron and Wade shouldn’t be hugging at midcourt before games (though didn’t Isiah and Magic nearly make out before a game in the Finals? Seems like you old heads don’t like to talk about it).
What these people need to realize is that social media is the new medium. Why risk getting a tech when you can talk shit and maybe get a fine at the most? Sure, it seems like a bitch move to talk about someone when they’re not around. But that’s the angle Embiid goes for, and he could care less what you think about him. “Man bun (Aron Baynes) is in the game just to get dunked on” is one of the funniest (and accurate) things I saw on Twitter during the playoffs, even if it came shortly after Man Bun’s team eliminating his.
No matter the scenario, you can always count on Embiid bring that same energy every time, whether it’s on the court or on the internet. Some people hate it, some respect it. But The Process doesn’t give a damn, he’s out here having fun on his way to superstardom. And I’m here for it.
Follow Michael Price on Twitter (@MochaTheLegend) and email (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you wonder about my opinion on other players.