CLEVELAND — Joel Embiid isn’t settling for mediocre. He has his sights set on being one of the best to play the game and is likening his offensive approach to an elite.
The seven-footer wants to be like future Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant.
The opportunity arose Thursday in the Sixers’ 108-97 win over the Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena (see observations). A double-teamed Embiid drained a turnaround fadeaway with 1:28 remaining in the fourth quarter, then pointed to a fan and made a shooting motion. His inner Kobe was channeled.
“The whole game he was just talking, I thought it was funny,” Embiid said of the fan. “As soon as I caught that ball, I think he was saying I suck and I can’t score. Then the double-team came but I was already into my fadeaway, so I felt like Kobe.
“Then I made it and I made sure to let them know that I’m one of the best players in the league, in the world. I love it. It’s all about having fun and I have fun.”
Embiid posted a 17-point, 14-rebound double-double in the Sixers’ first win over the Cavaliers since Jan. 5, 2015. The Sixers had a balanced team effort with all their starters scoring in double digits, including a bounce-back 22-point performance from JJ Redick.
Still, Embiid wanted to make significant buckets.
“That was a double-team,” Embiid explained. “But Kobe is my favorite player, so from watching him he doesn’t pass the ball, so double-team or triple-team, I felt like I had to shoot the ball.”
So what exactly does it mean to feel “like Kobe?” Well, it’s all about pushing to be great, even if it is just the beginning stages of a career.
“He’s one of the best players to ever play, so if the question is what does it feel to feel like one of the best players to ever play, then it feels great to be in that type of position,” Embiid said. “I’m trying to reach that level. Got a long way to go, but I intend to get there.”