Lakers Legend Throws Joel Embiid in MVP Race: ‘Whenever I Want’

Joel Embiid

Getty Joel Embiid can play like Shaquille O'Neal in the paint while flashing like Michael Jordan on the perimeter.

People are running out of accolades to throw on Joel Embiid. So, after casually dropping 50 points in 27 minutes, the Philadelphia 76ers’ MVP candidate came up with his own after a dominating 123-110 victory. A humble Embiid compared himself to Shaquille O’Neal, with a little Michael Jordan, Dirk Nowitzki, and Kobe Bryant mixed in.

It all depends on the night, really. And whatever he feels like doing or whatever his team needs him to do. Embiid is locked in.

“I mean, yeah, at times whenever I want I’m able to be Shaq,” Embiid told reporters, “and you know whenever I want I’m also able to be Dirk, Kobe, or MJ, or any guard really. Meaning shooting off the dribble pulls-up or ballhandling. Just a combination of everything offensively so, you know, I was OK tonight.”

Tyrese Maxey put the idea in his teammate’s head during shootaround when he asked Embiid if he planned to go into Shaq or Dirk mode. The second-year guard was half-joking, not realizing that the All-Star center was going to go nuclear. Embiid joined Allen Iverson and Wilt Chamberlain as the only players in Sixers history with multiple 50-point games. He finished 17-of-23 from the field while going 15-of-17 from the free-throw line. And Embiid added three blocks for good measure.

“I was messing with him before the game about who he was going to be tonight Shaq, Dirk,” Maxey said, “and he was like, ‘I’m gonna be Joel.’ I was like, ‘OK, you gonna be Joel then,’ and that’s what he did.”

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Embiid Throws Shade at Mo Bamba

Embiid’s adversary on Wednesday night wasn’t too shabby either. Mo Bamba was cooking early and couldn’t miss from three-point land. He was up to 22 points, including five triples, in the second quarter as the Orlando Magic took a 57-47 lead into halftime. The Sixers were booed off the court.

Bamba finished with a career-high 32 points (12-of-15 from the field, 7-of-8 from deep) while fighting off Embiid’s defense in the paint. He couldn’t stop Embiid at the other end, though.

“It’s tough. His just general presence out there offensively,” Bamba said of Embiid. “He’s bringing the ball up the court. He’s shooting threes. He’s obviously posting up and making a lot of physical plays.”

But Embiid didn’t appreciate the hometown jeers at halftime so he went medieval on everyone in the second half. He scored 23 points in the third quarter as MVP chants rained down on him at the Wells Fargo Center. He was incredible, or “unbelievable” to quote head coach Doc Rivers. Embiid had 20 points in the first quarter, too.

“I mean, he was just unbelievable from the start,” Rivers said. “I thought he tried to set a tone for us early. You know, he’s just really good. Just dominant in every way. I mean, every shot was the right shot, right move so it was great.”


Stats Don’t Lie, MVP Season

It’s a three-man race for NBA MVP through the first 44 games: Embiid, Steph Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo. An unfortunate knee injury has temporarily taken Kevin Durant out of the running. Curry remains the favorite, but Embiid is steadily climbing the ladder. His 50-point, 12-rebound performance on Wednesday night only strengthened that MVP case. Just ask Magic Johnson.

Here are some amazing stats (via Stathead) from the win over Orlando:

  • Embiid logged the fewest minutes (27:03) played in a 50-point, 10-rebound game in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55).
  • Embiid became the 10th player in league history to tally 50-plus points on 23-or-fewer attempts from the floor.
  • His 23 points in the third quarter tied teammate Seth Curry for the second-highest output by a Sixers player in the play-by-play era (since 1996-97).
  • Embiid tied Giannis Antetokounmpo for the most games this season with at least 15 makes from the free-throw line (three games in 2021-22).
  • Embiid became the second player (after Anthony Davis) to have multiple games with 50 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks in NBA history.
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