It was four years ago this week that the Philadelphia 76ers drafted Joel Embiid with the third overall pick and nothing has been the same since.
I am more than willing to admit that I didn’t want the Philadelphia 76ers to draft Joel Embiid.
The Sixers had the third overall pick in the NBA Draft in 2014 and would make their selection after the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Milwaukee Bucks. Up until a week before the draft, almost everyone was picking Embiid to go No. 1 to be followed by forward Andrew Wiggins. Which was just fine with me because I was all about Jabari Parker out of Duke.
I loved the way Parker played the game and more importantly, the way he carried himself. He played four years of college ball and seemed like the player that could make the most immediate impact on a Sixers team that was in the beginning stages of what would come to be known as “The Process.”
So for me, picking third was the perfect scenario. Embiid would go first, followed by Wiggins and Parker would become a 76er.
That was, until it was announced six days before the draft that Embiid had surgery to repair the navicular bone in his right foot and would likely miss the entire 2014-15 NBA season.
Quite suddenly, Embiid was no longer a lock to go first in the draft, or even possibly second.
Enter Sam Hinkie and “The Process.”
Where most people saw a player who wouldn’t step foot on a basketball court for a year. Hinkie saw a player that could transform the Sixers. Yes it would take time, but at that point the Sixers had plenty of it and was in no hurry to win just yet.
So on June 26, 2014, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver walked to the podium and announced that the Philadelphia 76ers had picked Joel Embiid out of Kansas with the No. 3 overall pick.
And I groaned.
Yes. I actually groaned.
Where most saw potential, I saw a center with a bad foot and back issues. Where many saw a player with an incredibly high ceiling, I saw someone who had only been playing basketball for few years and lacked experience. This was going to be the cornerstone the Sixers were going to rebuild their franchise on? Seriously?
It would eventually be two full seasons before Embiid touched the hardwood of a NBA basketball court. In addition, that rookie season was filled with minute restrictions and yet another injury, which gave me plenty of ammunition to tell everyone that would listen that the Sixers made a huge mistake drafting Embiid.
Then came the 2017-18 NBA season.
And I quietly shut my mouth.
Last season Embiid averaged 22.9 points, 11 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game. He came very close to winning Defensive Player of the Year and led the Sixers on a deep playoff run that got the city of Philadelphia excited about basketball for the first time in too many years.
Embiid will be on the cover of NBA Live 19 this year and is the undisputed face of the Sixers franchise no matter who the organization may sign in free agency.
It may have taken a few years, but Embiid has more than lived up to the hype and potential that so many saw when he was taken with that third overall pick four years ago.
And you now can count me among his biggest fans.
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I’m not so proud that I can’t admit when I’m wrong. In the case of Joel Embiid, I was very, very, very wrong.
Four years ago this week Joel Embiid joined the Philadelphia 76ers and nothing has been the same since. Here’s to many, many more.