Hometown Hero: Embiid Finally Crowned MVP


Image Credit: Philadelphia Inquirer

Jacob Farhy

After turning in the best season of his career, Joel Embiid beat out Denver’s Nikola Jokic and Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo for the Kia Most Valuable Player award. He became the first Sixer to win the award since Allen Iverson in 2001. He also captured his second consecutive scoring title and led Philadelphia to a 54-28 record during the 2022-2023 season.  

There has been no denying the dominance of Joel “The Process” Embiid since he first stepped onto the court for the Sixers. He’s widely regarded as the best or second-best center in the league, a six-time All-Star, three-time All-Defensive team member, and he boasts the most complete skill set of any big man in the modern era. But despite everything he had accomplished  on the court, the people still had one looming doubt about the 7-foot Kansas product: his health. “He’s hurt a lot,” said sports analyst Colin Cowherd, urging them to trade away their star player and build around Ben Simmons instead. Four years later, it’s Embiid, still a Sixer, who played 66 games and took home the MVP.  

Having dominated the way he had over the past three years, one may assume Embiid is recognized as the consensus best center in the league. However, that is not the case. His rival center, Nikola Jokic, stole the trophy from him the past two seasons. Around the halfway point of the season, it was starting to look like a three-peat in the making for the Joker, but that would all change on January 28th when Number 21 showed why he was the MVP. In a home clash with Jokic’s top-seeded Nuggets, Embiid recorded 47 points, 18 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks in what many would call the best game of his career. Statistically speaking, Jokic was only about half as good as Embiid, putting up 24 points with eight rebounds, and he watched his team’s 15-point halftime lead crumble away. That night, it became clear who was the real MVP. 

Unlike others, Joel Embiid has had a unique path to stardom. Growing up in Cameroon, Joel didn’t start playing basketball until he was 15; soccer was his first love. It wasn’t until Coach Kevin Boyle noticed  the 6’9 teenager’s potential that anyone really took Embiid’s game seriously. Playing for Montverde Academy for the first time in the United States, JoJo didn’t look like the dominant star we know today. He was out of shape and sloppy with the ball in his hands, knew little English, and had no jumpshot. Despite his rocky start to basketball, he still earned himself a scholarship to the University of Kansas, where he would go on to have a dominant career and get drafted third overall in the 2014 NBA Draft. However, like many guys his size, Embiid struggled to stay on the court due to injury, playing just 31 games in his first three seasons as a Sixer. It wasn’t until his fifth year in the NBA that he broke out and cemented himself as a bonafide superstar. Now, he’s the MVP. “I’ve been through a lot, and I’m not just talking about basketball. I’m talking about everything. Life, my story, where I come from and how I got here and what it took for me to be here,” he said as he was accepting the trophy. Enjoy this one Joel, you earned it.