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Revisiting Joel Embiid’s 50-point Game

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It was one for the ages.

Chicago Bulls v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

It’s a slow news day, the Summer Sixers don’t play until tomorrow, and I don’t feel like writing about Ben Simmons hypotheticals. So, I figured, what better time to take a trip down memory lane? Flash back to: February 19th, 2021. Against the Chicago Bulls in South Philadelphia, Joel Embiid registered the first (and so far, only) 50-point game of his career.

He had come close before: a month prior to annihilating the Bulls, Embiid scored 45 points against the Miami Heat. He came even closer a full year prior, dropping 49 points on the Atlanta Hawks in February 2020. And of course, there was his 46-point game against the Los Angeles Lakers in Embiid’s sophomore season. But it wasn’t until this past February that he finally reached the 50-point mark.

It was not only a prolific scoring performance, but an all-around clinic as Joel racked up 17 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 4 blocks. He shot 17 of 26 from the floor (65.4 percent), including 1 of 2 from 3PT, and 15 of 17 from the line. From a purely statistical standpoint, it was one greatest single-game performances in recent NBA history. According to Basketball Reference’s game score metric, which goes back to the 1983-84 season, there have been only 17 outings that rank higher than Joel’s 50-pointer. (Jordan has 4 of those 17, more than any other player.)

The night started with Embiid bullying Wendell Carter Jr.

The Bulls coaching staff gave Carter Jr. a break, at which point it became Thad Young’s turn to feel helpless. First, Embiid nails a silky smooth spinning, fade away jumper. Then he gets Thad with the up-and-under.

By the time Carter Jr. returned to the floor, Embiid was well on his was to 50 points and went back to simply moving moving Carter Jr. out of the way to score at the basket. You can actually see the very moment Embiid caused Carter Jr. to rethink his career choice.

I can’t contain my laughter as I observe Carter Jr. and Thad Young’s reactions. Wendell: Is anyone going to help me? Isn’t there something we can do about this? Thad: Nah man, not really.

To cap off the half, Joel went coast-to-coast and whipped out a eurostep, leaving the color commentator nearly speechless, letting out a subtle “Oh, come on” while the play-by-play exclaims, “It’s unfair!”

The 2nd half saw more of the same, with Joel getting pretty much whatever he wanted. Even as the Bulls started to drop their coverage on Embiid, the big man splashed midrange jumpers and even a three pointer. All the while, he was playing stout defense and keeping the Sixers ahead in a very tight game. There were steals. There were blocks. There were assists. And there were rebounds — lots of ‘em.

Joel sealed the night with this absolutely bonkers shot that should not be possible for a man of his stature:

Just take a look at the expression of utter defeat in Zach LaVine’s reaction:

Jojo’s final box score was a thing of beauty:

I’ve resurfaced some of the best comments from the Bell Ringer post on the night Embiid dropped 50.

  • “There is signal everywhere that Joel is unique, from the practice gyms in Lawrence, Kansas to Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania to Doha, Qatar where he does something awe inspiring far too regularly. We remain hopeful (and optimistic) about his long-term playing career, but we don’t yet know exactly how it will turn out. The decision to draft Joel third, though, still looks to me to be the correct one in hindsight given the underlying reasoning. But to call something that could be wrong (“failed draft pick”) right (“good decision”) makes all of our heads hurt, mine included.” — The Flying Moa
  • The image of a young, smiling Embiid on crutches drinking a Shirley Temple come to mind on nights like this. It seems like a lifetime ago. It WAS a lifetime ago. — Salmon P Chase
  • Embiid was kind enough to say it was a team effort, meanwhile his back is killing him from carrying the entire team — embiidinthepost
  • My wife is a huge college ball fan, but has been watching more and more NBA with me lately since her college team is struggling this year and last. She’s generally hard to impress, never really wowed watch guys like Lebron or Giannis. Tonight there were multiple times where she was left awestruck. Embiids game tonight was really one of the best performances I’ve seen. People have had higher scoring games, but Embiids was just so dominant on both ends. Truly a special game from JoJo. — Hikemeister
  • That length of the court eurostep was ridiculous.
    That over the head layup was ridiculous.
    Those two blocks to close out the game were ridiculous.
    That drop step and inside pivot that drew a foul was ridiculous.
    Those rebounds he refused to be denied were ridiculous.
    MVP — crowhop
  • I can’t believe how long the Lavine part of this thread got on a night when Embiid dropped 50 lol — Grandpapa Jo

The man is a treasure to behold.