Did You Just Rip the fans? I’m Done, Joel! 

Did You Just Rip the fans? I’m Done, Joel! 


     As I write this, the 76ers have not yet been eliminated from their playoff battle against the New York Knicks, but I am done – gone, finished, out – with my support for Joel Embiid.

     For me, his tenure ended in Philadelphia when he crossed the line after a dismal Game 4 loss at the Wells Fargo Center. Here are the exact words that lost me forever as one of his most vocal fans:

     “I’ve never seen it, and I’ve been here for 10 years,” the Sixers center whined about the unusually large number of Knicks fans in Philadelphia. “Yeah, it kind of pisses me off, especially because Philly is considered a sports town. They’ve always shown up and I don’t think that should happen. Yeah. It’s not OK.”

      Amid the endless drama this soft, overrated star player has created here, he was smart enough never to direct his emotions at the fan base that has supported him – with their voices and pocketbooks – like few superstars of his generation anywhere.

     And that’s not even the worst thing about his public outcry against the fans. What compounded my outrage was the timing of the blast, right after yet another weak effort in a big game. The gall it took to single out the fans after Jalen Brunson had danced circles around Embiid in the fourth quarter is infuriating.

      I’m sure there are still some Embiid devotees out there who are thinking right now about the big guy’s 50-point perfomance in Game 3 – with a sudden, shocking diagnosis of Bell’s Palsy, no less – as proof that Embiid is blameless again this season.

     Sorry, I’m not buying it. (In fact, I’m not even sure if the Bell’s Palsy diagnosis is legitimate. With Embiid’s addiction to drama, I wouldn’t be shocked if we found out it was just an ingrown hair.)

     This is the real story of why the Sixers lost another huge playoff game. They lost because the star player on the opposition had more heart than he does. We saw it before with Kawhi Leonard, Trae Young, Jayson Tatum and so many others. All of those players are smaller than Embiid in stature, and all have bigger hearts when it matters most.

     Now we can add Jalen Brunson to the list. Not only did he outscore Embiid by 20, 47-27, in Game 4, but he was there in the end, damaged knee and all. In the fourth quarter, Brunson had nine points and led the Knicks offense. Embiid had . . . . ready for this? . . . . one point. One point in 12 minutes. Wow.

     And after that debacle, Embiid pointed the finger not at himself but at the fans? Seriously?

     What made the audacious criticism even worse is that those same fans he targeted have smothered him with love for a decade now, despite his consistent failures in the playoffs. (This is where I’m required to remind everyone that Embiid is the only piece left from the four-year Process. The whole point of him being here was so the Sixers would no longer be also-rans.)

     The fans have bought his jerseys, filled every seat for every game, have never booed him, and have treated him with the same admiration they showed for fellow Philly superstars like Bryce Harper and Jason Kelce.

     Of course, Kelce won a Super Bowl here and Harper made it to the World Series. Embiid still hasn’t gotten out of the second round.

     Based on the current series against the Knicks, he never will.

     Despite these annual failures, the blame has never fallen on Embiid. First it was his weak supporting cast (except for Jimmy Butler), then it was his awful coach, Brett Brown; and through most of it, Ben Simmons was there to face the boos and the brickbats.

     But now Tyrese Maxey is a major star himself, and the surrounding players have playoff experience and fill important secondary roles. The coach, Nick Nurse, is a significant upgrade over Brown or Doc Rivers.

     The real problem has never been the supporting cast, nor the coaches, and not even Ben Simmons (though he is a gutless stiff.)

The real problem is that the biggest star shrinks when the spotlight gets too hot. There is always someone on the other team who steps up in the biggest moments, while Embiid slides into the background and decided who (other than himself) he’s going to blame this time.

     Until Sunday, however, Joel Embiid was never so stupid, so ungrateful, to point his finger at the fans. But now it’s their fault that the Knicks have created a passion that led thousands of fans on the 100-mile ride down the turnpike to cheer on their overachieving team.

     If the Sixers held a similar grip on their fans, there would have been only a smattering of enemy fans in the stands on Sunday. But Philadelphia basketball devotees are not fools. They know a winner when they see one.

     The 2024 Sixers are not a winner.

     And now, obviously, neither is Joel Embiid.

     If the Sixers are seeing the same thing I am, Embiid is one loss away from ending his tenure as a Sixer. If they are worried about actually winning a championship someday, they will get what they can for a drama queen with a big mouth and no heart.

     Then Embiid can find out the hard way just how well he has been treated in Philadelphia.


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