Moses Malone

Recognizing Moses Malone's past and Joel Embiid's present

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Recognizing Moses Malone's past and Joel Embiid's present

This article originally ran on Jan. 11 of this year, the day the Sixers announced Moses Malone's No. 2 would be retired. It's been re-published for tonight before the Sixers officially raise the banner before their game against the Nuggets.

You can catch Malone's retirement ceremony live at halftime of Friday's game on NBC Sports Philadelphia and the MyTeams app. 

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The Sixers made the correct — and some would say overdue — decision to retire Moses Malone’s number.

The late Hall of Famer will be honored on Feb. 8 before the Sixers play the Nuggets. Not only will no one ever don No. 2 for the Sixers again, but nobody other than Malone has ever rocked the number in franchise history.

Though Malone only spent five seasons here — four in his prime and one in the twilight of his career — his impact on the organization is undeniable. Acquired in 1982, fresh off his second MVP award with Houston, Malone went on to win his third with the Sixers in 1983. And, of course, he led the franchise to its third NBA title while capturing Finals MVP.

While we remember Malone’s dominance down low, you can’t help but compare what he did to what Joel Embiid is currently doing. 

By age 24, Malone was in his fourth NBA season after spending two years in the ABA before the merger. Through those four seasons, Malone averaged 20.9 points, 15.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks. At the same age, but after only playing two-plus NBA seasons because of injury, Embiid is averaging 23.5 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks.

Malone collected his first MVP award in his third NBA season. While the competition is incredibly steep for the award this season, Embiid has at least put himself in the conversation — especially if the Sixers can get their act together and go on a serious run.

Embiid’s numbers compare favorably to that of Malone’s first MVP season, per Basketball Reference.

But let’s forget all the numbers for a minute. The one thing these big men have in common is their big personalities. Malone was the one who famously proclaimed, “Fo’, fo’, fo’” when asked for a prediction of how the Sixers’ playoff run in 1983 was going to go. It was a bold prediction that was only one game off as the team steamrolled their way to a championship.

This is a quote from the Sports Illustrated article after Malone was traded to the Sixers for Caldwell Jones and a first-round pick.

"There are lots of things that I can do that the public hasn't seen yet," Malone says. "The people will see how much I'm an all-around player. They say CJ [Caldwell Jones] is a great defensive player. I was the best defensive player the Houston Rockets ever had. Some nights I had to prepare for three guys: the center, the power forward and the small forward. I had to check them all. If CJ does that, he'll foul out every other game."

In the past, Embiid has called himself a guard, has boasted about being the best defensive player in the league and has frequently been known to tell opposing players “you can’t guard with me” ... with some colorful language thrown in. He has, however, mellowed on the social media trash talk.

Malone’s Hall of Fame status was cemented by his greatness but also his longevity. He was able to play 19 NBA seasons and retired at the age of 39 after playing in three different decades.

Embiid has a long way to go and will likely always have his injury history questioned, but he’s looking to put himself among the greatest Sixers of all time. Perhaps, one day, No. 21 will hang in the rafters of the Wells Fargo Center.

Bringing the city of Philadelphia a Larry O'Brien tropy would certainly help that cause.

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