The NBA’s most annoying PR push is over. Joel Embiid is the league’s MVP for the 2022-23 season, and as per the unwritten rules of NBA Twitter, is now immune to criticism. Anyone with something bad to say about the Philadelphia 76er big man shall henceforth be declared objectively wrong and exiled to Elba because the Process has a Michael Jordan trophy to his name. Hear ye, hear ye, let the reign of King Embiid last for 1,000 millennia.
Alright, now that I’ve been sufficiently patronizing, let’s move on to the truth of the matter, and that is Embiid probably deserved to win the award. I have no qualms with the selection as I also would’ve picked the Cameroonian for MVP, and have been appropriately vocal about it.
However, lofty awards merit lofty expectations, and Embiid has only partially been validated. Ask Nikola Jokić, Giannis Antetokuonmpo, James Harden, Russell Westbrook, Dirk Nowitzki, etc. how the public perceives ringless MVPs. I know Dirk and Giannis both won one, but the narrative before regular season dominance translated to the postseason was one of a false prophet, some fugazi assclown who was prematurely anointed.
Seeing as the announcement came after Embiid missed Game 1 of round two with a knee injury, the skeptics will be loud, and unwavering. It doesn’t help that the Joker is healthy, has a 2-0 lead over the Phoenix Suns, and is averaging 27, 14, and 8 during the playoffs. (Embiid: 20, 10, and 4 over four games played.) While a Michael Jordan trophy does elevate players to another echelon, Embiid will find himself at the bottom of that pecking order until he proves worthy of the distinction.
Back to square 1
So congratulations to Embiid on a great season, to the Sixers organization for their shameless efforts, and to the people of Philadelphia for their continued commitment to being the angriest people at the sports bar. Can we officially say the Process worked, or is that title-dependent?
The news that Embiid is going to return to the floor for Game 2 in Boston even though Harden and Co. already stole home court is encouraging, despite it feeling like a move made more out of pride than intelligence.
The casual NBA fan knows how much the Celtics have haunted the Sixers, meaning beating them is the bare minimum. If Philly gets bounced by Boston again, that MVP trophy is going to need constant upkeep with everyone lining up to shit on it.
Had I been given a vote for MVP, it would’ve gone to the guy who won it. Embiid earned back-to-back scoring titles, and has had multiple “Best Player in the Game” stretches over the past two seasons. I have no idea where his 2022-23 campaign ranks among the contrived tiers of MVP seasons, and honestly, who cares?
Nobody can take this away from him — or Daryl Morey, who has “cultivated” two different winners of the award, and now gets the menage-a-trophy he’s always dreamt of. (More upkeep for the MJ trophy, but hopefully Daryl doesn’t make the ball boy clean off that mess.)
I’m sorry if I’m not more laudatory in this piece. If you want an uncomfortable level of praise, read the Inquirer. All I’m saying is this isn’t a culmination of anything. Not in 2023. I agree it’s unfair that the amount of toxicity injected into the debate overshadowed the performance art those two big men put on throughout the year. Unfortunately, the discourse will only worsen the blowback for whichever superstar center gets eliminated first.
It’s the honest truth though. So, Philly, celebrate as raucously as possible right now because you’ll hate the bullshit awaiting Embiid if the Sixers’ playoff run doesn’t go as planned.