As Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid begins to realize the full strength of his NBA powers, he’s only becoming more emboldened to troll opponents. Just as we saw flashes of Embiid’s brilliance during an injury-shortened rookie campaign last season, we could see his trash-talk potential when he tagged Hassan Whiteside as “BBQ Chicken” after roasting the Miami Heat big man in a victory last fall.
After his Sixers lost three straight to start the season, Embiid announced his entrance into the 2017-18 campaign with a 30-point outing on 11-of-15 shooting in a win against the Detroit Pistons. We should have known then what he was capable of on a basketball court, just as we should’ve understood how far he could take his mockery once he openly declared Andre Drummond “doesn’t play any defense.”
As the season has wore on, Embiid is picking up steam both in performance and persiflage. After posting a 32-point, 16-rebound double-double over a career-high 36 minutes in a win over the Los Angeles Clippers, Embiid taunted Clips bigs Willie Reed, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. The next night, when he beat the L.A. Lakers with a historic 46-15-7-7 line, he clowned Lonzo Ball on Twitter.
Now, Embiid is raising his penchant for making defenders look silly before and after whistles to new heights, treating Utah Jazz rookie guard Donovan Mitchell like his own personal puppet on Monday:
With his Sixers leading by double-digits in the final minutes of an eventual 107-86 victory, Embiid blocked Mitchell’s layup attempt, sending the rookie to the floor. The 76ers star stared Mitchell down and told him, “Get that [stuff] out of here,” according to The Salt Lake Tribune. That prompted the Jazz guard to shove Embiid, who embellished the push and drew a technical foul as he fell to the ground.
Joel Embiid, ladies and gentlemen. pic.twitter.com/qkI6PbS3Bo
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) November 21, 2017
The 7-foot phenom capped the sequence by encouraging fans at Wells Fargo Center to erupt, playing the role of king, court jester and gladiator all at once to an adoring crowd at Mitchell’s expense.
And Embiid wasn’t done yet.
“Obviously, I blocked the shot, and then I said something to him,” Embiid told reporters afterwards, via NBC Sports Philadelphia, “and then he just got up and kind of fake shoved me. I flopped, and he got a technical for it, so that’s basically how it happened. But it’s all fun. After the game, we shook hands. You know, it’s just about having fun.”
Flops come with a warning from the league office before fines start piling up in increments of $5,000. It’s unclear whether Embiid has ever been warned before, but he did come into this season saying, “I fell a lot last year. I think it was a also because I was flopping. I have to stop flopping this season.”
For his part, Mitchell told reporters after the game, “We were talking the whole game. It’s part of the game, and I’ve just gotta keep my head, especially in that situation when we’re making a comeback and you give them energy at their home place to get all riled up. But I’ve just gotta keep my head.”
The dominance and disparagement by Embiid is only growing stronger, and he isn’t just limiting it to backup centers and rookie guards. He mocked reigning Defensive Player of the Year Draymond Green incessantly when the Sixers were beating the defending champion Golden State Warriors by 20 …
Draymond and Embiid exchanging words pic.twitter.com/oyBcowjPc5
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) November 19, 2017
… only to see Green and Kevin Durant get the last laugh in Saturday’s 124-116 come-from-behind win:
Kevin Durant and Draymond Green laugh and talk trash to Joel Embiid after KD hits tough and-1 over Embiid pic.twitter.com/yahB4Q9OR6
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) November 19, 2017
Durant: “We didn’t want to lose this game, especially to Joel (Embiid). He would’ve gone straight to Twitter and started talking shit.”
— Connor Letourneau (@Con_Chron) November 19, 2017
Embiid took it all in stride, even paying homage to Green — the ultimate trash-talker whose trolling is widely glorified when the Warriors are winning and often criticized when it comes back to bite them.
— Joel Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) November 19, 2017
The Sixers (9-7) are winning more often than not now, too, keeping pace as a bottom-four seed in the early Eastern Conference playoff picture, so Green’s game recognizes Embiid’s game in that regard:
Draymond said after the game that he respects Embiid’s trash talk cause he doesn’t just talk when he’s winning, he talks the whole game.
— Enrico (@The700Level) November 19, 2017
It’s as if Embiid feeds off the troll, and his victims’ in-game disdain only makes him hungrier. And only the jovial Embiid can turn all that into near universal appreciation from his peers (save for Whiteside).
But you wonder if there will be a reckoning for Embiid. The 6-foot-9, 220-pound Reed tried, hacking him across the arms and throwing him to the floor early in the second quarter of the Clippers game. The 6-foot-3 Mitchell barely made a dent with his shove. But the sheer force and farce that is Embiid will only gather steam as he and the Sixers ascend the rankings. Will someone put him in his place? Can someone put him in his place? What is his place? Is his place so high that he is unassailable?
Joel Embiid is walking the walk and talking the talk, and it’s on everyone else to stop him. Good luck.
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