What sort of birthday gift do you get for a man who is in the middle of a $148 million contract and has nothing but time on his hands for the next month? A virtual one, of course.
Joel Embiid turns 26 on Monday, which prompts one of two questions depending on how you see the world: Is he only 26 ... or is he already 26? Maybe it’s all the social media, or the feud with Karl-Anthony Towns, or the unrequited flirtations with Rihanna, but he sure feels older to us.
Embiid has been a Sixer for nearly six years, but played just four. He just made his third consecutive All-Star appearance and two weeks later set a career-high with 49 points against Atlanta.
There’s no doubt when Embiid’s on the floor, he’s one of the great scorers in recent NBA history. Through 202 career games, Embiid has more points than Allen Iverson, and just a smidge less than Kevin Durant.
Now if he can just stay healthy — and fit — through this hiatus.
The highest scoring averages for the first 202 games of a Sixers’ career (since 1963-64).
* – Hall of Famer
Note: Wilt spent the first five-and a-half seasons of his career with the Warriors before being traded to the Sixers on Jan. 15, 1965, when he was 28. ... Erving was in the ABA for five seasons before the Sixers acquired him from the Nets on June 17, 1976. He was 26 when he arrived in Philadelphia. ... Ben Simmons’ average after 202 games was 16.2 points per game. ... Hal Greer, the franchise’s all-time leading scorer, averaged 14.7 points in his first 202 games when the team was located in Syracuse.
As terrific as Embiid has been, one key ability of his that has been problematic through the years has been his durability. He’s missed 109 games in the last four years, after missing the first two full seasons following his selection as the No. 3 overall pick in 2014.
Two nights after dropping that 49-point bomb on Atlanta, for instance, Embiid banged his shoulder into Cleveland’s Ante Zizic and sat out the next five games. He missed nine games in January with a torn ligament in his hand. It’s been a frustrating season for Embiid, who even got into a brief tiff with his best friends: the Sixers’ fans.
In the last three years, as the Sixers turned the page from process to legitimate contender, they have a .655 winning percentage with Embiid in the lineup and are .517 without him.
A quick diversion from the primary topic.
For any number of reasons, comparing anyone to Wilt Chamberlain is terribly unfair, but it can stagger the mind. Consider the following:
Wilt comparisons aren’t fair, but check out Embiid’s numbers compared to Moses Malone after 202 games with the Sixers. Embiid has scored six fewer points, so their scoring averages are virtually identical.
It would have been a big week for parties with Embiid, Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto all celebrating birthdays — except who’s in the mood these days for balloons and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey?
Here’s a list of prominent current Philadelphia pro athletes and their birthdays. Careful not to slobber on the cake. Coronavirus, ya know.
Jan. 12 - Claude Giroux (1988); Jan. 13 - Ivan Provorov (1997); Jan. 22 - Jason Peters (1982).
Feb. 18 - Didi Gregorius (1990).
March 11 - Travis Konecny (1997); March 16 - Joel Embiid (1994); March 17 - Rhys Hoskins (1993); March 18 - J.T. Realmuto (1991).
April 3 - Brandon Graham (1988).
May 1 - Miles Sanders (1997); May 8 - Kevin Hayes (1992); May 8 - Lane Johnson (1990); May 30 - Zack Wheeler (1990).
June 4 - Aaron Nola (1993).
July 15 - Tobias Harris (1992); July 20 - Ben Simmons (1996).
Aug. 13 - Carter Hart (1998); Aug. 15 - Jake Voracek (1989); Aug. 19 - Brandon Brooks (1989).
Sept. 15 - Josh Richardson (1993).
Oct. 16 - Bryce Harper (1992).
Nov. 5 - Jason Kelce (1987); Nov. 10 - Zach Ertz (1990).
Dec. 7 - Sean Couturier (1992); Dec. 13 - Fletcher Cox (1990); Dec. 20 - Malcolm Jenkins (1987); Dec. 30 - Carson Wentz (1992).
Source: Inquirer research, Basketball-Reference.com.