MVP and NBA titles within grasp for Joel Embiid

Fred Jeter | 3/31/2022, 6 p.m.
Joel Embiid’s NBA career was slow in getting off the launching pad, but now he’s rocketing toward a possible MVP.
Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid’s NBA career was slow in getting off the launching pad, but now he’s rocketing toward a possible MVP.

Heading into the home stretch of the regular season, the Philadelphia 76ers’7-foot, 280-pound center is probably the leader for the league’s most coveted individual honor.

His stiffest competition might come from Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić, the 2021 MVP. Embiid finished second to Jokić a year ago.

Through games of March 26, Embiid was averaging 29.8 points, 11.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.5 blocks per game while hitting 49 percent from floor, 37 percent from beyond the arc and 82 percent at the foul line.

In addition to his power play in the paint, Embiid is among the best shooting centers from the distance in NBA annals.

Despite his talents, Embiid was anything but an overnight success, missing all of his first two seasons (2014-15 and 2015-16) with foot injuries.

Since then, he has been a five-time NBA All-Star and among the NBA’s most physically imposing athletes with a 7-foot-5 reach, size 17 sneakers and hands that stretch a full foot from tip of thumb to tip of pinkie.

He is well compensated for skills. His 2021-22 contract is for $31.58 million.

Embiid’s play has helped the Sixers to a 47-26 record. The team is tied for second—with the Milwaukee Bucks—in the NBA Eastern Conference behind the Miami Heat (46-27).

Defenses will not be permitted to gang up on Embiid now that James Harden, among the top scorers in the history of the game, has been acquired from Brooklyn.

Embiid and Harden, with a career 24.6 points scoring norm, might be the premier one-two tandem on the planet.

Born in Cameroon, Embiid moved to the United States when he was 15 and played high school hoops at Montverde Academy and The Rock School in Florida before signing with the University of Kansas. After one season with the Kansas Jayhawks, he was the third overall NBA draft pick in 2014 behind Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker.

Embiid is the third athlete to come to the NBA from Cameroon following Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje and Luc Mbah a Moute.

Embiid is fluent in English, French and Basaa, a Bantu language.

Should he win this year’s MVP, Embiid would become the third straight foreign-born player to do so following Jokić from Serbia and Giannis Antetokounmpo from Greece.

Television viewers are never far from Embiid, even if they don’t watch much of the NBA. He’s a popular and comical character on Coca-Cola, Mountain Dew and Hulu commercials, as well as having endorsements from Under Armor, Amazon, Fanatic and Electronic Arts.

The 76ers were born in 1963 when the Syracuse Nationals moved the franchise to Philadelphia. Since then, the team’s only championships were in 1967 with Wilt Chamberlain and in 1983 with Moses Malone and Julius Erving.

Now it’s Embiid’s turn to try and join Wilt, Dr. J, Mo and Allen Iverson as Philly legends. Both the MVP and NBA titles are within his huge grasp.