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March 13, 2023

Joel Embiid had his signature MVP moment

After his game-winning shot against the Blazers, Joel Embiid has his signature MVP performance to go along with his historic scoring pace for a big man. He "won the week" in Philly sports.

Just a month ago, it felt like the NBA's MVP race was over. Whether it was truly deserved or not, Nikola Jokić looked to be walking towards his third-consecutive MVP award. Perhaps Joel Embiid would finish as the runner-up for the league's most prestigious regular season award for the third-straight year. That's the best Sixers fans could hope for.

I'm not quite sure that's the case anymore.

Embiid has been on a tear as of late, and, really, the entire season as an elite scorer, but the tide is turning narratively, as his chance of hoisting the Michael Jordan Trophy grows.

For PhillyVoice's weekly Monday feature of "Who won the week in Philly sports," I'm going with the big fella who should be the first Sixer to be named MVP since Allen Iverson himself in 2001. 

If a signature moment could completely transform the MVP voting group's opinion, it was Embiid's heroics on Friday night against Portland. The Sixers led a 21-point comeback against the Blazers and Damian Lillard, another guy who's on a season-long heater, much like Embiid. The Sixers' center gave the Sixers their first lead of the game with a game-winning mid-range jumper with 1.1 seconds remaining in the game:


While I understand the concept of it being so difficult for a big man, a monstrous scoring threat in the post, to be a crunch-time ISO scorer, Embiid is totally unique here. No true center has been as good of a face-up player as this since David Robinson's prime and Embiid has a new bag of tricks in his repertoire filled with step-backs and fadeaways that channel Dirk Nowitzki's energy. 

Any MVP race has a narrative base. The Embiid vs. Jokić has become an "eye test vs. stats" dichotomy and it's deserved to a degree. "VORP Twitter," as I liked to call it, is infatuated with Jokić's assist numbers and great defensive stats that have a whole lot of noise in them. Embiid is more of a real hooper, a throwback big thrashing weaker players continuously in the post and destroying helpless defenders with jumper after jumper. The fact Embiid's game-winner over Portland was a mid-range J only hammers it home. "Jokić would've made the extra pass and went for the higher percentage shot!" 

If national media members have already mentally cast their votes for Jokić with zero regard for Embiid's dominant stretch run and historic scoring punch, they should feel embarrassed. I mean this with the utmost district... kiss off. I hate the thought process of "Jokić is doing this without elite teammates!" If this is the dude people worship because of an ability to make the rest of his team better, why the hell aren't they picking up accolades? Do you think it's a coincidence that James Harden is having his best year since his MVP peak in Houston during his first full season playing alongside Embiid? Absolutely not. Get out of here with that. Get lost. 

Embiid's currently leading the league with 33.4 points per game. That comes on the heels of capturing the scoring title in 2022, the first center to do so since Shaquille O'Neal in 2000. No center has done that in back-to-back seasons since Bob McAdoo in 1976. To put that in perceptive, the ABA was still an operating entity then, Shaq was just four-years-old and Michael Jordan was still a couple of years away from being cut from the Laney High School varsity squad. To sum it up succinctly... it's been a while. 

There have been just nine seasons in NBA history where a center averaged at least 33.4 points per night (per Stathead). Seven of them are from Wilt Chamberlain, one is from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the most recent occurrence was McAdoo in 1975. 

I'll leave on this note... MVP voters, don't make a vote you'll regret that'll leave you looking foolish in the future after improbably awarding the MVP to Jokić yet again.

Last week's winner: James Harden

2023 Who Won the Week Tally:

Joel Embiid: 3

James Harden: 2

Mac McClung: 1

Haason Reddick: 1

Kenny Gainwell: 1

DeVonta Smith: 1

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