Joel Embiid might just be a few regular seasons games away from winning his first ever NBA MVP award. Everybody wants access to the Sixers superstar and over the last few days he’s obliging them a bit more than he normally would otherwise. Perhaps James Harden, who won his in 2018, got in his ear and said this vote is largely narrative based, so it wouldn’t hurt your chances to show them a little bit more about who you are and what you’re like.
A feature in SI by Chris Mannix, an appearance on “The Late Late Show with James Corden,” and a guest spot on “The Old Man and the Three” are a few of the most recent glimpses into the big man’s POV fans have been treated to over the last couple of days.
From SI, Mannix brings us this gem from Joel, who did some reflecting on his injury history and first mega contract:
“I just love to play,” he says, grinning. There’s a purity to Embiid rarely seen in stars of his caliber. He builds relationships with GMs, he says, “because I don’t want to get traded.” After getting a taste of Embiid’s talent in a 31-game stint during the 2016–17 season, his first in the league, Philadelphia offered him a five-year, $146.5 million extension. “I was like, ‘These dumbasses are going to give me $150 million?’ ” says Embiid. “S---, I’ll take it.”
At the time, there were critics of this contract, still good through 2024, which former GM Bryan Colangelo offered. Embiid had famously played just a handful of games over his first three seasons and it included some insurance in the event of certain injury recurrences. But Embiid had flashed just enough to make clear to the Sixers organization that he was worth that gamble. What was once panned as a bad risk by the Sixers actually turned into one of the NBA’s best values. There’s probably no better contract value for a franchise than an MVP candidate in his prime.
Still, it’s funny that Embiid himself may have even believed the team was a bit nutty for offering him that much. Did he think he wasn’t good enough? Did he think he might continue getting banged up? Some of both? Maybe he crushed ours as well as his own expectations.
Embiid also tried his hand at some comedy apparently:
Joel asks host of The Late Late Show James Corden for some acting advice since he was out in Los Angeles. Corden takes him through a riveting lonely, gum-chewing librarian role play. Embiid is such a good actor in that clip above that one can almost imagine him at the Oscar’s someday accepting his best-actor award.
Former teammate JJ Redick also goes in depth with the Kansas product. Redick gets Embiid to open up on a variety of topics, like walking through some of his thought process for getting a rookie like New York Knicks big Jericho Sims into foul trouble.
He shares some of the not-for-television back-and-forth he has had with Kevin Durant during matchups this season.
When Redick says he thinks Embiid and Kevin Durant are the two best players in the league and Nikola Jokic is also in the top three, Embiid wants to know “where’s Giannis?” When Redick explains he thinks Greek Freak is in “the next group” Embiid defends, “That’s a two-time MVP, a Finals MVP!”
Lots of very fun moments in the media access above. Joel can waffle naturally, seamlessly, between very humble, talking about his origins as a player, and injury past, to how he’s smarter than everyone else on the court sort of like Chris Paul and how he’s unstoppable. He weighs in on that Tyronn Lue free throw-gate story too.
It’s pretty entertaining stuff. We’ve seen Embiid’s playful side for a long time now, but usually only in short doses. There’s more of that here and also plenty of his serious side.
Hopefully he’ll be hoisting the MVP trophy soon. As he notes with Redick, he wouldn’t just be doing it for Philly Nation, he’d be doing it for his home country of Cameroon and the African continent as well.