The NBA recently released their 2022 Most Valuable Player ladder ranking the top three candidates for the highly-coveted award. Let’s meet the contestants.
In third place, we have the Milwaukee Bucks star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo, a two-time winner of the MVP award who led his team to an NBA championship last year and is on his way to making another finals appearance this season. In second, comes the reigning MVP, Denver Nuggets center, Nikola Jokic. The “Joker” came off an incredible ‘21 season and is currently in the midst of one of the most efficient seasons ever for an NBA player, let alone a center. Incredibly tough competition. Still, there is one more rung left. The top of the ladder. And there’s one player who stands above the rest as the favorite. That player? Philadelphia 76ers superstar center, Joel Embiid.
If you’re not a big fan of basketball, you may not have heard of this Joel Embiid guy. So, I figured I’d introduce you to him. Joel “The Process” Embiid is a 7-foot basketball player who was born and raised in Cameroon. Though he grew up loving soccer, he was pushed to play basketball due to his size and instantly fell in love. Embiid attended the University of Kansas, shooting up draft boards as he dazzled scouts with his perfect frame and spectacular play. Still, he was seen as a project guy and somewhat of a risk. In 2014, the Sixers took that risk, drafting Embiid 3rd overall.
During his first two years in the league, Embiid spent all of his time on the bench, healing a multitude of injuries. Fans began to worry the doubters might be right about the raw prospect from Africa. Luckily, they couldn’t have been more wrong. Embiid was an instant sensation from the first game he played in 2016, torching defenses nightly with a dominance that hadn’t been seen since Shaq was breaking backboards in the 2000s. Embiid has improved every year since, blossoming into one of the most offensively talented players in the league. He was even bestowed with the nickname “The Process,” as Sixers fans hoped his success would lead to a championship down the line.
But what truly captures fans’ hearts goes beyond on-court play. Embiid is more than just a basketball player. He’s an entertainer. Every night when he steps on that court, his charisma and passion for the game shine through. Few have ever played with so much heart, and from his first night in the league, Embiid has never been afraid to show it. Whenever he makes a highlight play, it's just about a given that it will be accompanied by an extremely boastful yet well-deserved celebration. Sixers fans serenade him in cheers as he simply holds out his arms and takes it all in. After the game, you can expect him to be dropping jokes on reporters and taking shots at opposing players. Embiid’s undeniable charm has led millions of fans to fall in love. Oh yeah, and he’s pretty good at that whole basketball thing too.
Embiid has been especially “pretty good” since last year when his numbers began to skyrocket as he led the Sixers to the number one seed in a pandemic-riddled 2020 season. He was actually on pace to take home the MVP award last season, as he absolutely exposed the NBA’s premier defenders night after night. Unfortunately, Embiid was unable to stay healthy, derailing his chances at the award. Though he did eventually come back, he never looked quite the same. The Sixers were bounced in the second round of the playoffs and Embiid finished second in MVP voting.
This year, however, Embiid returned with a vengeance. He was done settling for seconds.
He wasn’t quite as impactful at the beginning of the ‘22 season, as he was still dealing with the tail-end of his injury. But after a quick battle with COVID, Embiid came back a man. Sorry, did I say man? I meant specimen. Somehow, he looks even better than last season. More importantly, he looks more determined. Embiid has been on an absolute mission since the new year, completely ripping defensive schemes to shreds as he carries the Sixers on his back. He currently stands alone as the NBA’s leading scorer with both dominant and efficient shooting stats. He’s also made a clear improvement on his passing abilities as he continues to dominate on the boards. Even with all-star point guard Ben Simmons holding out, the Sixers have managed to stay in the top half of the Eastern Conference teams almost exclusively from the efforts of Embiid. Right now, there’s no one better in the NBA, and it seems the league is finally taking notice. He’s received constant praise from all-time greats like Kenny Smith and the aforementioned Shaquille O’Neal. Even current league stars like Jimmy Butler and Carmelo Anthony have been forced to recognize his dominance.
Of course, the award is not Joel Embiid’s to take home just yet. Let’s not forget that at this point last year, it seemed inevitable that he’d be the one holding up that trophy in front of Philly’s finest. Didn’t happen. Something feels different about this season, though. After years of shortcomings and failures from the Sixers, it seems like 2022 will finally be different. Sure, this might just be my blind Sixers-fan optimism speaking, but I believe there is no one more fitting than Joel Embiid to break the curse that’s seemingly loomed over the Philadelphia 76ers for the last two decades. Embiid is a supreme talent. He’s exciting to watch. He can shoot 3s, he can dunk, he can do it all—no matter how many injuries plague the team and no matter how many second-round exits. So before you count him out as MVP or dispel the Sixers’ chances to get far in the playoffs, remember this: We must never fail to trust Joel Embiid. We must never fail to trust The Process.