Embiid’s All-Star selection a testament to his dedication
Covering the early years of Joel Embiid's career as the Sixers' superstar center has been a great joy to follow over the last two seasons. It has brought a lot of incredible moments, as well as a lot of hardships and uncertainties.
Two years of injuries sidelined Embiid from making his debut after being selected third overall by the Sixers in 2014. There was no clear answer to when or whether or not we'd see Embiid take the floor. There's always been so many question marks surrounding just that idea.
Would there ever be a moment in time when just the seven-foot stature of Embiid would hinder the chances of being able to play with so many foot and lower back injuries? At that time, it wasn't even a matter of if Embiid would be able to play at the NBA level, that part was crystal clear. It was just a matter of whether he would be healthy enough to play.
But 2016-17 came around, and all the question marks turned into exclamation marks. The uncertainty around Embiid's chances of success due to injury were swept away because of how natural he looked on the floor. Yes, the inability to play back-to-back games took a toll on the media's perception of what Embiid could accomplish in that particular season, but his talent was unquestioned.
For a guy that barely played during the first half of the season, but played well enough with stats as a rookie that were hard to compare historically, Embiid had a very realistic shot to be selected to the All-Star Game as a rookie.
Unfortunately, the coaches decided that a guy who could barely finish a game due to the fear of getting injured didn't hold justice to a proven veteran big man in Paul Millsap for one of the final spots on the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
By the date of the All-Star game in February 2017, Embiid's prospects of participating in any event were a moot point, as the team had already pretty much ruled out Embiid's shot of playing for the rest of the season. The January 27 loss to the Rockets ended up being the last time we saw Embiid after eventually suffering a torn meniscus.
It just seemed like whenever Embiid made progress, some lower body injury halted his chances of finishing out the season on a high note.
His 20.2 points per game, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks in only 25 minutes per game highlighted his 31 dominant games, but ultimately cost him chances at being an All-Star and claiming the Rookie of the Year Award.
After a dominant season, it was obvious how much Embiid wanted to return healthier and better than ever, raring to go and complete a season playing more games and helping the Sixers return to playoff form.
There was just so much speculation over the coming months if Embiid was ever going to be cleared for five-on-five practice because of this knee injury. So many individuals continued to doubt Embiid's health if he was ever going to be cleared.
There were people, such as Ryen Russillo, who before the season, suggested that the Sixers should trade Embiid, in case he got injured and had to miss an additional season.
But the Sixers never gave up on Embiid as a player and all the positives he could bring the team if they just continued to believe in him. They signed him to a max contract extension on October 9, for five years, $148 million.
If there is a better way to tell the public that you believe in player than signing him to a max contract extension, please let me know.
It took a little longer for Embiid to be cleared, but when he was, he picked up right where he left off. The season started hot for Embiid, as his lingering injuries didn't bother him anymore.
In 44 games this season, Embiid has had extra help to get back to the prominence he was at last season, especially from point guard Ben Simmons and power forward Dario Saric. He's already increased his point total from last season, averaging 23.7 points per game, 11.1 rebounds, three assists, and two blocks per game for the Sixers.
Aside from his immense popularity throughout the league, his stats alone have completely justified his status as one of the NBA's best big-men, completely solidifying his status as an NBA All-Star this season.
In an interview with CBS Sports on Friday ahead of the Rising Stars game for NBA All-Star Weekend, Embiid discussed the time that he debated on stepping away from basketball entirely.
"I wanted to quit basketball," Embiid told CBS Sports. "Just not being able to play the game I loved, the game I was passionate about -- I just wanted to quit basketball and go home and forget everything."
Embiid dealt with a lot during his first two seasons with the Sixers, but he almost stepped away from all of it, after dealing with injuries, surgeries, and his younger brother's untimely death at age 13.
But after rethinking everything, he decided to keep going on the path that he had worked so hard to get to and Embiid said that he was glad he didn't quit after all.
Could you imagine if Embiid accepted the end as his fate for this game? We'd be wondering "What could happen," instead of what we're witnessing right now.
We're witnessing greatness with Joel Embiid, and his dedication, determination, and loyalty to the game that has given him, his family, and his homeland of Cameroon so much, that shows how impressive it has been for him to be playing at this level.
Joel Embiid is an NBA All-Star, and now all we need to do is sit back and watch the true greatness that is unfolding before our eyes.
Josh Liddick is Sixers managing editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoshLiddickTalk.