The NBA closed the book on the regular season, and it’s ending not only solidified the Sixers’ most-winning regular season since 2000-01 at 54-28, but also secured Joel Embiid as the scoring champion for the second straight season — a feat not accomplished by a center since Bob McAdoo did it three straight seasons from 1974-76.
Add it to the list of accomplishments for the Sixers’ seven-footer. There’s still one individual accolade that has eluded him, however, and that is, of course, the MVP award. As the league shifts its attention to the playoffs and eventual announcement of the award winner, more heavy hitters from the NBA are coming out in support of Embiid’s personal quest.
“Heavy-hitter” may even be underselling this endorser. The greatest shooter of all time, the back-to-back NBA MVP, the first-ever unanimously voted MVP, the 2022 NBA Finals MVP, the all-time NBA leader in made threes, the four-time champion... those would be more appropriate. We are of course talking about the one, the only, Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors.
“I would say Joel,” Curry told Bleacher Report. “Any person you pick, their body of work could be compared to Jokić or Giannis. But Joel took a leap that I think a lot of people didn’t expect because he was dominant already. That leap turned heads and put Philly in a great position. If I had to pick, it would be him.”
High praise, indeed. And he’s not the only high-caliber player with his support behind Embiid. When prompted by cohost Eddie Gonzalez on a recent episode of his podcast, The ETCs with Kevin Durant, 13-time NBA All-Star Durant cited Embiid’s continuing dominance for why he is Durant’s selection for this year’s MVP award:
Kevin Durant: “He is playing at a dominant level. For the last two years, he’s been on an insane level, like come on, what more does he have to do to be the MVP? And they winning basketball games too.”
That aspect of Embiid’s leadership tangibly resulting in a number of Sixers’ wins was an aspect also cited by Portland superstar Damian Lillard. On a recent appearance on “The Dan Patrick Show,” Lillard made his case for why the Sixers’ big man deserves his first ever MVP after being at the top of the conversation for the past two seasons:
Damian Lillard: “I pick Joel Embiid because he’s, you know, I feel like he’s been dominant all season long. His team is winning. I feel like he coulda won it one of the last two years but I think Jokic won it both times. And I just think because he’s been to me the most dominant player, he’s been carrying his team, I think you can’t continue to give it to a guy who’s won it twice in a row, and especially when you have a guy like this that’s performing at the same level or maybe even higher. And he also didn’t get it one of the last two times when he was at that level, I just think that’s not how it should work.”
Lillard wasn’t the only one to call into question whether Embiid’s achievements in the past two years should have earned him an MVP award or two already. After Embiid dropped 52 points on the Boston Celtics on April 4, former teammate and current Miami Heat leader Jimmy Butler made a similar declaration:
Upon hearing Joel Embiid put a 50 burger on the Celtics, Jimmy Butler: “Joel’s the MVP. He should’ve been MVP last year too.”— Vincent Goodwill (@VinceGoodwill) April 5, 2023
The Sixers’ narrow 103-101 victory over the Celtics and Embiid’s 52-point bomb caught the attention of oddsmakers too. After the contest, Embiid’s MVP betting odds leapt to make him the clearest favorite he had been all season for the award. These were the odds on DraftKings on April 5 after the final whistle:
And this is all in addition to a slew of players, current and former, that had already come out in vocal support of Embiid’s MVP candidacy in recent weeks. We have covered a number of them previously, including Golden State Warrior and NBA veteran Draymond Green, Chicago Bulls’ star Zach LaVine, Minnesota Timberwolves’ point guard Mike Conley Jr., Indiana Pacers’ head coach Ric Carlisle, former NBA sniper Tim Legler, former Kings big Demarcus Cousins and an array of sports media personalities.
Of course, those players don’t have votes, so it’s not exactly an indicator of how the eventual voting will turn out. That being said, being endorsed by an array of leading players from every corner of the league is nothing to scoff at.
In the end, the regular season is over. The cases have been made by the players on the court and will be defended by the fans and media online in countless “friendly” debates.
All that’s left now is to wait.