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Joel Embiid, his greatness, and the responsibility to not f--- this up

Joel Embiid dropped 50 on the Magic last night, serving as a reminder that the Ben Simmons trade isn't about contending this year, but about not wasting Embiid's greatness.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

"I was messing with him before the game, about who he was going to be tonight. Shaq? Dirk? Because he can do everything," second-year guard Tyrese Maxey told the media following Embiid's second career 50-point outing, this one in a 123-110 win over the Magic on Wednesday night. "He was like 'I'm gonna be Joel'.

"Okay. You go be  Joel then," Maxey finished.

The consistency that Embiid's playing with – scoring 30 or more points in 11 of his last 12 games, averaging 30.5 points, 11 rebounds and 4.2 assists since coming back from COVID on November 27th, the fact that he's now been playing at an MVP level for two consecutive years – makes it easy to take his excellence for granted, especially when the team outside of him is relatively uninspiring. Every now and then you need something to pop, even beyond Embiid's lofty standards, to remind you of the absurdity of what he's developed into.

Wednesday's game provided a window into that absurdity, a term I use in the most endearing of ways. Here was this 7-foot-2, 280 pound big man who scored in every way imaginable – deep post catches where he overpowered Mo Bamba; face-ups and rocker steps where he drove right by him; fadeaways to shoot over the defense; coast-to-coast transition pushes; hang dribble pull-up jumpers; crossover drives – and those were just highlights from the first quarter of play.

"Whenever I want, I'm able to be Shaq. And whenever I want I'm also able to be Dirk, or Kobe, or MJ, or any guards, really," Embiid said after the game when asked about Maxey's pregame comments. "Shooting off the dribble, or pull-ups, or ball handling. Just the combination of everything offensively."

"So, you know, I was okay tonight."

When all was said and done Embiid had 50 points on just 23 shots, and did so in only 27 minutes of play. Here's some historical context to paint a picture of just how absurd that all is.

As the game was wrapping up last night, I fired off a tweet that proved to be a bit controversial.

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