"To anybody struggling right now, to anybody who feels like giving up, I’m telling you, just take one small step forward."@JoelEmbiid has been through it, time and time again. He shares:
— The Players' Tribune (@PlayersTribune) January 15, 2020
Joel Embiid just released a Player’s Tribune article and before I get into it I know I have to make my Editors note where I say someone from Under Armour’s PR team probably wrote half of this while Joel was on speaker phone giving bullet points and they probably had 5 drafts proofread & edited before coming out with a final copy. Not to mention his thick accent where the ghostwriter probably said ‘What?’ over 100x.
Now that we have this cleared up let’s get into it.
Joel Embiid has taken a season that has more resembled the Schuykill Expressway with it’s head-scratching stops, mind-bending curves, and it’s ability to generate random outbursts of anger. Reset it. And has placed it on a straight and narrow path for the 2020 NBA Finals. If you’re looking for any reason, and a lot of us are, to find the good in this Sixers team give it a read…and then come back here and read this. But exit the blog first, and then re-click on this link. Get those pageviews soaring (thanks).
I actually don’t know how many people know this, but right after I got drafted, back in 2014, I thought about walking away from the game. I’m not exaggerating at all. I seriously considered retiring from the NBA before I’d even played one game.
It actually had nothing to do with my injuries. Your body, it heals. It always heals. All that pain is just temporary. Your heart, though? Man — that’s different. It’s a lot more complicated.
When you talk about my life, you have to talk about my brother Arthur. There’s no telling my story without him.
To start, Joel takes us all the way back to 2014 where he almost quit basketball while going through a grueling rehab, not playing a minute of basketball, everyone labeling him a bust, and now finding out his brother & best friend was tragically killed thousands of miles away in his home country. There are stronger people that would have never come back from that. I couldn’t imagine being an immigrant plucked from my third world community at 14, with no guarantee basketball would ever work out, and no chance of seeing my family for years. When you take a minute and think of the journey Joel Embiid has been on to make it to where he is today. Top 3 NBA pick, Top 15 player, 2x All-Star, Top 5 defensive player, 2x All-NBA Second Team, Rookie of the Year* (fuck you Malcolm Brogdon). It’s honestly amazing it’s worked out as much as it has. That’s why it’s crazy to think we were really close to losing him before it started, and if it happened imagine where The Process would be today. We’d be 8 years in.
A lot of players talk about rehab and injury being the hardest thing to get over as an athlete. You’re never around your teammates, you are consistently being poked and prodded like livestock, and you have a lot of time on your own, secluded from everyone else because you’re on a different treatment schedule. That’s why injuries fuck a lot of players up. I’m not surprised it took Embiid to find his love for the game again. It took him TWO full seasons to get on the court.
I really couldn’t believe how much Philly had my back. For the last few years, people have given me so much support through so many ups and downs, through so many surgeries and setbacks, through me breaking my damn face before the 2018 playoffs. It’s way bigger than basketball.
That’s why I got so emotional after Game 7 against Toronto last season.
When Kawhi took that off balance shot at the buzzer — as soon as it left his hands I thought,
When it bounced off the rim once I thought,
When it bounced twice, three times, I thought,
It bounced a fourth time, and it went in. For whatever reason, it just went in.
I don’t think I’ve ever showed that kind of emotion on a basketball court in my life. The game of basketball, it’s not life or death. But it wasn’t about the game really. I had tears in my eyes walking off the court because of how much I wanted it for the city, and for my family.
This was a nice peek behind the curtain. It amazes me that he thought he’d be boo’d the first time he came out of the tunnel. Because what I remember is people just wanted something they could cheer about and him being able to just finally play after two years of waiting was enough for me to be excited. But when you hear all the slander on national talk shows, local radio, in your mentions, etc I feel that you definitely look at your perception a different way. There can be 100 positive comments and that one negative one will always stick with you, quietly eating away, & making you second guess yourself.
I’m going to be back. And we’re going to get this thing right. And we’re going to be a problem in the playoffs, I promise you. But I have to say it now — the one thing I’m not going to do is change who I am as a basketball player.
I got nothing but love for the legends of the game like Shaq and Charles. So I respect what they’re saying about my game. But I’m never going to be the kind of traditional big like Shaq was in the ’90s. You can’t go down to the post every single time down the floor and have success in this league. Not in 2020. Not with the way the game has evolved. Not with the way teams double-team now. You have to be able to spread the floor and pass the ball and get buckets all over the court.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a guard or a 7 footer, you need to be versatile to win in this league. You need to be unpredictable. Yes, I idolized guys like Dream. I watched hours and hours of Dream every single day, literally. Everybody knows that story. But you know who I love watching now? KD, Harden, even point guards like Steph and CP3. For me, that’s where the game is the most interesting right now.
That’s the way I’m always going to see myself.
And I know you guys on TV want me to score 35 on the block every night.
I know it. I hear you.
But I gotta be honest with you. This isn’t 1995. This is 2020. I’m not working every single day to be the next Dream. There’s only one Dream. There’s only one Shaq. I’m not trying to be the best Big ever. I’m trying to be the best basketbalplayer in the league, and I really believe I can be that.
I’m done with the trash talking and the memes and all that. Once I’m holding that trophy in my hands, maybe I’ll be back to my charming self. For now, I got one thing on my mind.
I’m not trying to win a debate.
I’m trying to win a f***** title.