Joel Embiid will turn 28 next month, with 336 NBA games under his belt and totaling more than 10,000 minutes on an NBA court so far in his career
A five-time All-Star, three-time All-NBA selection, a runner-up for the 2021 NBA MVP and the league's leading scorer so far this year, Embiid's list of individual accomplishments is impressive, and growing even more so by the day.
Yet to this point in his career Embiid has not played with a single, elite scorer by his side, despite the fact that the game has steadily trended towards perimeter play over the course of his time in the league, and despite the fact that the Sixers used back-to-back No. 1 overall picks to select point guards that would hopefully become foundational pieces alongside of Embiid.
The closest he came was the six-month stint he played alongside of Jimmy Butler, which not so coincidentally was also the only time the team was close to legitimately contending for a title. But Butler, a five-time All-Star, was a star more because the completeness of his all-around game and his two-way impact, not because of the terror he would instill in the opponent as a scorer. Plus, Butler had taken a back seat during the majority of his tenure in Philadelphia as they tried to figure out the fit between Butler and Ben Simmons, one of those aforementioned No. 1 picks who was, at that point, seen internally and externally as a rising star in the league.
Now, nearly eight years since the Sixers selected him with the third pick in the 2014 NBA draft, Joel Embiid will, for the first time in his career, get his chance to play alongside of another elite offensive force. He'll finally have a championship caliber running mate by his side.
James Harden, the 2018 NBA MVP, the 10-time All-Star, the the six-time All-NBA First Team guard, is a Philadelphia 76er.
The path to this point has been dark, and full of terrors, with enough twists and turns that a Hollywood director would dismiss it for being downright implausible.
The controversial rebuilding strategy that the entire NBA world debated for three years straight; the NBA royalty whose career was ended because vanity compelled either him, or his inner circle, to trash his own players under anonymous burner accounts on Twitter; the former player, with less than two years of front office experience under his belt, hired to guide the team during one of the most pivotal periods in franchise history; the point guard who always had a fear of shooting, and the one who developed a phobia of doing so seemingly out of thin air.
Normalcy isn't really our thing.
When the Philadelphia 76ers hired Daryl Morey in November 2020 to right the ship after a half-decade of missteps, the narrative that he was hired to finish Hinkie's Process was unavoidable. Hinkie, who spent eight years with Morey in Houston before taking over basketball operations in Philadelphia in 2013, kickstarted this era of 76ers basketball with the selection of Joel Embiid one year later. Now, his longtime mentor would have the chance to salvage the last vestiges of the Sixers' championship equity. The story practically wrote itself.