By Pat Costello
Sixers fans have not had much to get excited about during the past few years. The Sam Hinkie Era was years of horrible basketball in the hopes of striking gold in the NBA Draft. Season after season the Sixers were at the top of the board, waiting and hoping for a knight in shining armor to arrive. When they drafted Joel Embiid, a seven-foot-two-inch center, fans scrutinized the move and didn’t know if they should “Trust the Process” any longer. The league had shifted away from the old days of basketball, where having a post presence was of the utmost importance, and transitioned to a fast paced, small-ball, outside scoring style. Throw in the fact that he had suffered a broken foot and back problems during the college year and Sixers fans felt as though their knight had not yet arisen.
Fast forward two seasons and Embiid finally made his “rookie” debut against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The buzz around the game was less about Embiid and more about the newly single Russell Westbrook. However, it was Embiid who was the star of the show. He impressed everyone, scoring 20 points and grabbing seven boards in 25 minutes. It wasn’t just that Embiid was able to score, it was how he was doing it and who he was doing it against. He was guarded by Steven Adams, an Adam Morrison impersonator who has been touted as one of the toughest defenders in the league. Embiid was catching the ball on the wing and blowing by Adams before he knew what had happened. If Adams chose to sag off, Embiid took and made outside shots, including a three pointer. The high skill level that the 22-year-old displayed shocked everyone.
If you follow the Sixers’ social media accounts, you would have already known about the skill Embiid possesses. He is frequently the subject of videos in which he is consistently knocking down 20-footers, or showing off his fancy footwork in the post. His immediate success demonstrates that he is the total package on the basketball court.
Due to his size, most people assumed injuries would derail his career, just as they derailed the career of Greg Oden, but that hasn’t been the case. Sixers head coach Brett Brown recently said that Embiid is “like Shaquille (O’Neal) with soccer feet,” due to his incredible footwork down low, but that comparison is not the one on most people’s minds. The more apt comparison is to Hakeem Olajuwon, who Embiid models his game after.
Similar to “The Dream,” Embiid didn’t start his basketball career until he was 15. Initially, he wanted to play professional volleyball in Europe, but he discovered basketball and shifted his focus. Embiid stole Olajuwon’s famous “Dream Shake,” a post move that Olajuwon perfected throughout his Hall of Fame career. His ability to score around the rim is almost identical to that of “The Dream” as well, with the ability to use finesse to get open, yet finish at the rim with tremendous power. Olajuwon wasn’t only a great scorer, but a fantastic defender as well. He holds the record for the most blocked shots of all time. Embiid has already shown his ability to block shots, like when he blocked LeBron the other night. Technically, it was goaltending, but Embiid’s timing and athleticism on the play shows what he could become defensively.
Embiid has proved to be the knight the Sixers have been looking for. He has excited the Sixers fan base already, though the team is still without a win thus far and has already shown flashes of greatness, which will only be improved upon when fellow rookie Ben Simmons returns to the floor.
Embiid has nicknamed himself “The Process,” a nod to the motto from Hinkie Era. With him in the post, fans can get excited to trust The Process yet again.