Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid is the best heel in the NBA

(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images) /

Joel Embiid. That’s it, that’s the article.

Whether you just like the Philadelphia 76ers, have been a fan forever, or just happened to stumble upon the squad’s Game 3 battering of the Washington Wizards, even the most casual of basketball observers can yell that the big fella just looks different than the players he shares the court with.

Embiid is almost always the biggest, tallest, and strongest player in any given game, and yet, he’s somehow able to score from anywhere, shoot like a guard, and burst through contact like a bullet through butter. He does the big things well, the little things well, and even the in-the-middle things better than most.

And best of all, Embiid knows just how good he is and routinely lords it over opposing teams and players with ease.

Joel Embiid is the most entertaining man on the Philadelphia 76ers.

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Heel: a wrestler who performs the role of the unsympathetic antagonist or adversary in a staged wrestling match.

In the world of wrestling, there are ruthless heels who thrive on being the baddest of the bad (OG Kane, Brodie Lee), delusional bullies who think they’re admirable despite their actions (The Miz, Britt Baker), and most entertainingly of all, those overly cocky challengers who know they are the best and leave any sense of humility at the door (current Kenny Omega, early 2000s The Rock).

Joel Embiid, beyond a shadow of a doubt, falls into that final category, and at this point, he doesn’t care who knows it.

Now to be fair, Embiid has been good pretty much since he stepped foot on the court for Game 1 of the 2016-17 season. Even as a rookie, the former Kansas Jayhawk averaged 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds a game for Brett Brown‘s squad and really should have been named Rookie of the Year despite his abbreviated 31 game sample size.

But great? Transformational? Generational? Embiid didn’t truly unearth the depths of his game until Glenn “Doc” Rivers rolled into town and finally started holding the big fella up to a higher standard.

Appearing in 70.8 percent of the Sixers’ game in 2020-21 – a key number for All-Star voters – Embiid is averaging a career-high in points, steals, free throw attempts, and field goal attempts, while shooting career-high numbers from the field, beyond the arc, and the charity stripe. To make matters all the more impressive, Embiid is averaging a career-low 3.1 turnovers per game and 2.4 personal fouls despite recording his highest usage rate since his rookie season.

In layman’s terms? Embiid is living his best life, and someone needs to give his personal chef a darn raise.

Now tasked with serving as the focal point of a scheme built inside out with well-fitting veteran contributors, Embiid has become an even bigger fixture of the Sixers’ success in 2020-21 than in years prior and looks every bit worthy of such lofty expectations.

Case and point, the Sixers’ Game 3 win over the Washington Wizards. After bursting out early to an eight-point lead, fueled by a solid performance by Seth Curry, Embiid could have settled in and taken things easy a la Game 2, but instead, he decided to put on a show for the 10,000 fans in attendance at the Capital One Arena; even if the exact number of Wizards fans in attendance is a bit up in the air.

Despite only logging 28 minutes of action in the contest, his average this series, Embiid hit 14-18 shots from the field, 3-4 shots from beyond the arc, and all but two of his seven free throw attempts to finish out the game with a playoff-career-high 36 points, eight rebounds, and three steals. Embiid showboated to the crowd, threw down flamboyant dunks, and even egged on the crowd to boo him on multiple occasions.

While Embiid didn’t quite go so far as to chop the DX “suck it” laid out on the floor under the basket – even if both Triple H and Shawn Michaels gave the Cameronian big man their vote of confidence – he recorded about a dozen highlight-worthy plays that could populate Twitter and SportsCenter for days to come.

My personal favorite? This beautiful stepback fade over not one but two defenders that would make Dirk Nowitzki proud.

See what I mean? How can a 7-footer move like that?

Matisse Thybulle just put up an unbelievable stat line. dark. Next

You don’t have to be a good showman to rank among the elite players in the NFL, the NBA, or even professional wrestling. Nikola Jokic, the frontrunner outside of Philly to win the 2021 MVP, is about as flashy as a Honda Civic, yet he turns in consistently impressive statistical performances seemingly every time he takes the court. Joel Embiid, but contrast, is the Hugh Jackman-level performer who isn’t afraid to be himself. Though he’s toned down the social media interactions that surely gave the Philadelphia 76ers’ PR department cold sweats, Embiid has become no less impressive of a troll – he’s just matured to the point of nuanced delivery that would make Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson proud. But hey, what else would you expect from the most entertaining man in the NBA?