It always felt like Allen Iverson was made for Philadelphia. Sure, he was mercurial and not everyone loved him, but Philly did. He understood the fans and they felt like they understood him.
Despite his six-foot stature, the Hall of Famer lovingly known as Bubba Chuck left a gaping hole in this franchise that went unfilled.
Enter Joel Embiid.
The charismatic Cameroonian, who inked his supermax extension Tuesday, has taken the mantle as the Sixers’ franchise player.
And quite frankly, the Sixers are lucky to have him.
Then-GM Sam Hinkie watched as the Timberwolves and Bucks passed on Embiid in the 2014 NBA Draft because of injury concerns. While the potential was undeniable, potential was all it was as Embiid sat out his first two NBA seasons while dealing with a fractured navicular bone.
Despite Hinkie’s departure from the franchise, Embiid’s excellence kept the outside-the-box executive’s legacy at the forefront. Through The Process years, Embiid provided a glimmer of hope. The fact that he delivered with overwhelming expectations and with an entire franchise strapped on his shoulders is remarkable.
From the moment Embiid took the court for the Sixers, you could tell he was special. To see a player that big and strong but also so nimble and skilled — it didn’t seem real. His former coach Brett Brown once described Embiid as “Shaquille O’Neal with soccer feet.”
And here we are, just five years into Embiid’s career and his legacy is already astounding. From never playing basketball until he was 16 to people doubting whether he’d ever be healthy enough to play in the NBA to the runner up for the MVP. It’s been one hell of a ride.
Embiid is third in franchise history in points per game. He has the second-highest PER in team history. Nobody in NBA history has averaged more points per 36 minutes than Embiid — not Wilt Chamberlain, not Michael Jordan, not Kobe Bryant. Nobody.
And he endured so much since he was drafted. The tragic death of his brother Arthur. The navicular fracture that cost him two years — not to mention the various injuries he’s suffered. He’s been through front office upheaval and a ton of roster volatility. We’ve basically seen him grow from a skinny 20-year-old kid in a foreign place to an MVP candidate and first-time dad that calls Philadelphia home.
In the current NBA landscape, where players (rightfully) have more power than any other sport, Embiid has shown his loyalty. Outside out of one weird moment — in the midst of a really freaking weird season — Embiid has been consistent in expressing his desire to retire a Sixer. He could’ve easily voiced displeasure or asked for a trade when things went south.
Yet, here we are. Joel Embiid is the face of the Sixers franchise, and it’s well deserved. We’re fortunate to be able to watch a player that will likely go down as one of the greatest in this franchise’s storied history — and perhaps get to watch him for the entirety of his career.
“I’ve always had this one dream — to play for one city,” Embiid said to Sixers.com. “Philly and me — I’ve always thought that we’re a perfect match. They care, they’re passionate. I love them, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Hopefully, we all keep working on that goal all together, and it is to win a championship first, and then we’re going to talk about more.”
It just feels like Embiid was made for Philadelphia. Sure, he’s had setbacks and not everyone loves him, but Philly does. He understands the fans and they feel like they understand him.
The Process has been the best Answer the Sixers have had since the height of the Iverson era.
Here’s hoping the Embiid era features a parade (or two).