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April 19, 2022

Opposing fans are mad because Joel Embiid actually makes his free throws

Sixers NBA
Joel-Embiid-Sixers-NBA-Playoffs-04162022-UST Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports

Joel Embiid reacts to an official's call.

For those spending far too much time online (*raises hand*), it's been a long-running bit among non-Sixers fans out there to complain about Joel Embiid's propensity to get to the free throw line. 

The easiest solution to that problem for opposing teams would be, quite simply, to stop fouling him. That's one of the toughest tasks in the modern NBA though, as Embiid's physicality makes it nearly impossible to legally defend him without clobbering him. If anything, his overwhelming size, much like Shaquille O'Neal two decades prior, lends himself to getting fouled on almost any touch and it can't be called every single time. How about that for a spin zone: Embiid doesn't get enough foul calls!

The mental gymnastics people jump through, putting their minds in a pretzel, to discredit Embiid's historic scoring is hilarious from afar. I saw this outrageous post on Monday night during the Sixers' playoff win over the Raptors:

Great call. It's akin to saying "Stephen Curry is actually Mike Bibby if there was no three-point line" or "Giannis Antetokounmpo is Lamar Odom if dunking wasn't allowed." People are saying that if you changed the essential elements of the game of basketball, things would be different. You think? If the ball was square you couldn't dribble it! How about that one? Kyrie Irving's handles would be bad if the basketball was as flat as he believes the earth is. 

One of the greatest parts of Embiid's development into a superstar during his career is free throw shooting. He has shot 81.0 percent from the charity stripe over the course of his career. That's higher than LeBron James (73.4 percent), Jason Kidd (78.4 percent) and tons of other perimeter-oriented stars in NBA history. Embiid doing all of this as a center makes it even more astounding. There has never been a call for "Hack-A-Embiid" like there was for Shaq in his prime. Embiid isn't Wilt Chamberlain being a complete dud on free throws. He's a guy coaches would be fine with taking a technical free throw.

View it through this historical lens:

Shaq shot 52.7 percent from the line in his career. Wilt shot 51.1 percent. Embiid is at 81.0 percent. Wilt averaged 50.4 points per game for the 1962 Philadelphia Warriors while shooting 61.3 percent from the line that specific season. If he shot from the line that year the way Embiid did in 2022 (81.4 percent), he would've averaged 53.8 points per game instead. 

If Shaq shot 81.0 percent on free throws for his career, as he did, he would've scored another 3,225 points. That would have him jumping from eighth on the all-time NBA scoring list, where he is now, to sixth, moving ahead of both Wilt and Dirk Nowitzki.

No one said Shaq got fouled too much. It's because he stunk at free throws. People get riled up, like Raptors head coach Nick Nurse, because Embiid actually makes opponents pay for fouling him.

Run from it. Dread it. The destiny of Embiid sinking his free throws arrives all the same. 

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