Even for the NBA’s elite, success doesn’t always come easy. Michael Jordan didn’t win his first title until his seventh season. It took LeBron James nine seasons. Still, for certain sections of the NBA fan community, especially those that adhere to Ringzzz culture, even just a few years of struggles or playoff disappointments can mean a player doesn’t have “it” or isn’t a true number-one option.
So for Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has heard plenty from detractors regarding his outside shooting or struggles at the free throw line, leading his Bucks team to a title and earning Finals MVP must have been incredibly sweet. Moreover, achieving those feats to culminate his eighth NBA season puts him right on track with other past greats in adding championship hardware to his already impressive list of accolades. You earned that Chick-Fil-A, sir.
Giannis took the trophies to Chick-fil-A and ordered 50 nuggets.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 21, 2021
Amazing scenes pic.twitter.com/PSAMuoO3TM
For Philadelphia fans, though, while we can all be happy for former Sixers draft pick and All-Star Jrue Holiday, we’re still left wondering when the local hoops team will warrant a parade down Broad Street. But the Bucks cycling through coaches and rosters until hitting on the right combination around their superstar is a lesson for those in Philadelphia on patience paying off. Sure, Joel Embiid is nine months older than Giannis, but accounting for Joel’s two initial seasons lost to injury, he is only going into his sixth full NBA season next year. This past MVP runner-up season from Joel proved Philadelphia has the elite superstar to build around. Embiid and the Sixers still have a couple years to match the Giannis timeline. The fact that the team hasn’t yet hit on the proper roster around him isn’t cause to throw in the towel.
Now, saying patience is warranted isn’t saying the organization shouldn’t be aggressive or adopt a win-now mindset. Milwaukee traded away two rotation pieces and a boatload of draft picks and swaps for Holiday, and gave up more draft goodies for P.J. Tucker on his expiring deal. Those two players combined for 82 minutes in Tuesday night’s title-clinching Game 6, and it’s likely the Bucks wouldn’t have even made it out of the Eastern Conference without those upgrades.
If you have a superstar in his prime, you should make moves with a championship in mind. So if the Sixers have a shot at a player on the level of a Damian Lillard or a Bradley Beal, Daryl Morey should absolutely move heaven, earth, and a 2025 first-round pick to make it happen. But even if it doesn’t occur immediately, it doesn’t mean all hope is lost or the Embiid era is doomed to failure (in the sense that anything but winning a title is viewed as a failure). Neither Jordan nor LeBron had won a title by this point in Joel’s career, so let’s just take a slightly longer view in our current room.
Right now, Milwaukee is living the dream. But there’s still time for the Sixers. In the coming years, we could easily see Joel Embiid say some version of this: