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Jimmy Butler professed his love for Joel Embiid — then mocked Tobias Harris — after beating Sixers

After ending his former team's season, the Heat star reminded Philly fans what might've been.

Sixers center Joel Embiid meets with Heat forward Jimmy Butler after Sixers lost their Eastern Conference semifinal series to Miami.
Sixers center Joel Embiid meets with Heat forward Jimmy Butler after Sixers lost their Eastern Conference semifinal series to Miami.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Immediately following his team winning a big Game 6 and advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals past the 76ers, former Sixer and current Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler was asked about his postgame message for his ex-teammate and friend Joel Embiid.

“I’m proud of him. I love him,” Butler said on the ESPN broadcast. “Yes, yes, yes, I still wish I was on his team. I do love the Miami Heat though. I’m glad that I’m here. But I’ve got so much respect and love for Joel Embiid.”

That has to sting for Philly fans, not only because they just watched Butler lead his team to the conference finals, a round the Sixers haven’t advanced to in over 20 years, but also because by all accounts they could’ve had him.

» READ MORE: Heat win 99-90 after big second half to eliminate Sixers in Game 6 of East semifinals

Butler was a part of the Sixers for 55 games during the 2018-19 season following a trade from the Timberwolves. That season ended with the Sixers losing to the eventual champions, the Toronto Raptors, on Kawhi Leonard’s four-bounce buzzer-beater in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. That, arguably, was the closest to a championship team the Sixers have had since Allen Iverson was running the show in South Philly.

Following the season, however, things unraveled between Butler and the Sixers, with the team ultimately completing a sign-and-trade with the Heat for Butler while giving both Ben Simmons and Tobias Harris max contracts.

Butler, apparently, has not forgotten.

On his way into the locker room after Game 6, the six-time NBA All-Star was caught on camera delivering a pretty strong message to his former team: “Tobias Harris over me?”

That, coupled with recent reporting from Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, can only leave Sixers fans wondering what might have been after Butler averaged 27.5 points and dominated Philly for the better part of six games.

While Butler and Embiid bonded and have remained friends, Simmons became disenfranchised by Butler's playing and leadership style.
Both needed the ball in their hands, which pitted them against each other. Eventually it got to the point the organization felt it needed to choose between them, according to team sources, and it chose Simmons. He was younger, and at the time, seemed to have a higher ceiling. He was also still on a rookie-scale deal, and not due for a massive free-agent contract. Plenty of organizations would've done the same.
But that choice hasn't aged well, both because of how Simmons' career has unraveled in the past two years and how well Butler has played for the Heat since it invested in him with two separate eight-figure contracts, including a four-year, $184 million deal last summer.

Now, after beating his team, Butler is out professing his love for and desire to play with the MVP runner-up on national television? Turn the knife a little more, Jimmy.

» READ MORE: JJ Redick defends Sixers star Joel Embiid’s play, but says Nikola Jokić is rightful MVP

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Joel Embiid seemed to lament the decision as well, saying during his postgame press conference that he still doesn’t know how the Sixers let Butler get away.

» READ MORE: Sixers’ Danny Green leaves Game 6 with knee injury after Joel Embiid inadvertently falls on him