76ers

Joel Embiid discusses death of his brother Arthur, style of play, desire to win in piece for Players' Tribune

Joel Embiid discusses death of his brother Arthur, style of play, desire to win in piece for Players' Tribune

If there’s one thing we can all say about Joel Embiid it’s that he’s unlike any athlete we’ve ever seen in Philadelphia. Both on and off the court, Embiid is incredibly unique.

From almost not being in the NBA to his injury struggles to the criticism he’s faced to his desire to win, Embiid broached many subjects in an expansive piece he penned for the Players’ Tribune Wednesday.

The piece starts with Embiid discussing his brother Arthur, who was tragically killed at the age of 13 in his native Cameroon in 2014, just months after Joel was drafted by the Sixers. Arthur’s death had a profound impact on Joel.

Embiid famously was discovered when he went to fellow countrymen Luc Mbah a Moute’s camp. According to Embiid, that almost didn’t happen.

The day that I was supposed to get my big break, when I was 16, I almost messed it all up because all I wanted to do was chill with my brother. When I got invited to Luc Mbah a Moute’s basketball camp — the thing that everybody writes about when they tell my story? They always leave one part out.

I didn’t even show up on the first day of camp. I was way too scared. I actually skipped it so I could sit at home and play FIFA with Arthur.

Luckily for Sixers fans, Embiid’s father got his “a-- to the camp” the next day.

Embiid details how difficult it was dealing with Arthur’s death and being so far away from home. He admitted that he contemplated retiring before even playing a game. Not because of the injuries but because of the trouble he was having coping with the loss of his brother.

Instead, he persevered. He got through all the rehab and was able to make his NBA debut on Oct. 26, 2016. After missing his first two NBA seasons, he was expecting to get booed. Instead, he delighted the crowd and gave them flashes of what was to come.

Since that night, Embiid is a two-time All-Star, has led the Sixers to back-to-back 50-win seasons and consecutive playoff series wins.

And the support the Philadelphia fans have given him hasn’t gone unnoticed. It’s part of the reason he took last season’s playoff loss to Toronto so hard. He felt like he was letting people down.

All summer, every time someone posted that picture of me and Kawhi [Leonard] staring at the ball hanging on the rim, I didn’t even click away. I wanted it to be burned into my brain as motivation. And you know what? In the end, those guys deserved the title. They played harder than everybody else — period. Every single guy on their squad did all the little things they had to do to win. It was a lesson that we needed to learn as a team, and I think we’re still learning it this season.

Embiid acknowledges the Sixers aren’t off to the start he would’ve liked, but said things will be different once he returns from his injury and the team has a chance to click. 

He also talked about some of the criticism he’s dealt with for not dominating every night and for not spending all his time on the block. He knows he can’t be a pure post player like Shaquille O’Neal or his hero Hakeem Olajuwon. While he accepts the criticism of Hall of Famers like O’Neal and former Sixer Charles Barkley, he said, “This isn’t 1995. This is 2020.”

It’s a fair point that gets lost at times. Embiid leads the NBA in post touches and is nearly unstoppable 1-on-1 down there. But the opportunities simply aren’t there as teams pack the paint and double team him constantly.

But none of that is on the charismatic Cameroonian’s mind. He has a singular focus. Instead of ending the piece with his typical “Trust the Process,” Embiid’s closing was much more earnest.

I’m done with the trash talking and the memes and all that. Once I’m holding that trophy in my hands, maybe I’ll be back to my charming self. For now, I got one thing on my mind.  

“I’m not trying to win a debate.  

“I’m trying to win a f------ title.

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Al Horford makes a donation for coronavirus relief in Dominican Republic, regions where he's played in United States

Al Horford makes a donation for coronavirus relief in Dominican Republic, regions where he's played in United States

Al Horford has donated $500,000 to support coronavirus relief in the Dominican Republic, as well as in each region of the United States where he's played for a team, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

Horford’s father Tito was the first Dominican-born NBA player, and Al was born in the country. The family later moved to Michigan, where Horford attended Grand Ledge High School. He went to the University of Florida and has played for three NBA cities — Atlanta, Boston and Philadelphia. 

Several other members of the Sixers organization have also made charitable donations during the coronavirus pandemic. Joel Embiid has pledged to donate $500,000 to COV-19 medical relief efforts. Ben Simmons launched “The Philly Pledge,” an initiative which encourages donations to Philabundance and the PHL COVID-19 Fund that’s received support from a wide range of Philadelphia athletes, among them teammates Matisse Thybulle, Tobias Harris, Norvel Pelle and Marial Shayok. 

Sixers managing partners Josh Harris and David Blitzer have made several donations related to coronavirus relief, including to Philabundance and to CHOP and Cooper Hospital.

Limited partner Michael Rubin aims to have his company Fanatics produce a million masks and gowns for hospital and emergency healthcare workers. 

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Sixers Home School: The night Allen Iverson crossed over Michael Jordan

Sixers Home School: The night Allen Iverson crossed over Michael Jordan

There's a lot of home schooling going on right now, so why not use some of this time to learn more about the history of your favorite teams? In this edition of Sixers Home School, we look back at the night Allen Iverson crossed over Michael Jordan.

In a vacuum, rookie Allen Iverson crossing over the legendary Michael Jordan on March 12, 1997, at what was then known as the CoreStates Center was impressive enough.

Putting it into context makes you understand just how big of a deal it was at the time.

The 21-year-old Iverson was having a strong rookie campaign after the Sixers drafted him No. 1 overall. He was still a month away from setting an NBA rookie record with five straight games of 40-plus points. He wasn’t sporting what would become his trademark cornrows — though he did rock them when he won MVP of the Schick Rookie Game. 

This night was when he began to really put a bow on what would turn into a Rookie of the Year season.

As for Jordan and the Bulls, they were ho humming their way to a 69-win season and their fifth title in seven years. Jordan was 33, and though his game had evolved, he was as dominant as ever. Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman provided all the help he would need.

But on this night, it wasn’t about the Bulls, who celebrated receiving their championship ring ceremony by trouncing the Sixers and shutting down Iverson earlier in the season.

This was about the kid from Hampton, Virginia. The six-foot guard from Georgetown that grew up idolizing His Airness, but also told a coach back in high school that he was good enough to take him. 

“I remember the first time I played against him,” Iverson said in his Hall of Fame speech. “I walked out on the court and I looked at him, and for the first time in my life a human being didn’t look real to me.”

Though the first time the two actually talked was not necessarily cordial.

“The first time I ever talked to him was that year playing in the Rookie Game,” Iverson said in an interview with Complex. “I’ll never forget it because he said, ‘What’s up, you little b----?’ I’ll never forget it.”

Whether the moment provided extra motivation or what, Iverson was at times the best player on the court — which, given who was on the court, is a hell of a statement.

Iverson would finish with a game-high 37 points and foul out in a four-point loss. No, the Sixers didn’t win that night, but the fact that Iverson nearly willed a team full of guys like Scott Williams, Mark Davis and Rex Chapman to a victory over that juggernaut was remarkable.

But over the course of time, nobody remembers — or really cares — who won that game. It was the moment A.I. crossed over M.J. It wasn’t quite a torch-passing moment as Jordan would go on to win another MVP and championship, but it was a clear indication that Philadelphia had drafted a star.

That highlight dominated every sportscast the following day and had Sixers fans' imaginations running wild.

The legend of Iverson only continued to grow from there as he became one Philadelphia’s most celebrated athletes and joined his idol in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.

Years later, he spoke to Jordan about the moment he got him with his legendary crossover.

“I went to a Charlotte game and I was telling him how much he meant to me and how I rocked with him,” Iverson went on to say in the interview with Complex. “He was like, ‘Man, you don’t rock with me like that because you wouldn’t have crossed me like that.’”

For as much as Iverson had idolized Jordan, his desire to beat him and be the best outweighed that.

“I always knew that once I got to the league, I was going to try my move on the best,” Iverson said, “so he was just a victim that night.”

That night, a star was born and a legacy was just beginning.

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