Change is sometimes unfortunate and sometimes necessary. Change is, ultimately, inevitable. No one can stop it from happening. Every year, we get older. Hair goes grey. Weight fluctuates. Jobs change. Relocation. Transition within family structures. We all have dealt with it. We are dealing with it now.
Sports is no different. Players transition from team to team every season. Some moves are noteworthy, and there are some that cause seismic activity within the sports universe. Remember when Shaquille O’ Neal, before his prime, left Orlando for Hollywood in the summer of 1996? That caused shockwaves in the NBA. It represented a shift in power to many. That shift was truly felt during the Lakers three-peat in 2000-2002. (Why wasn’t that shift felt quicker? Jordan. That’s all.)
Today, many big name NBA players are going to the best situation possible in order to manufacture an easier way to a championship. Some, however, have chosen to stay with the franchise that drafted them to guide them to glory. Giannis is the latest to bring home a title to the Milwaukee Bucks, cementing the fact that forming a superteam isn’t the only way to titles. There was a time when star players stayed where they were.
Joel Embiid has remained loyal to the Sixers from day one, but another lost season might test that relationship.
Joel Embiid may be coming to that crossroads in his career. Embiid is now 27 years old, and entering the prime of his career. Which is big for star basketball players. A year wasted without winning a title, especially when they’re operating at the height of their physical powers, feels more hurtful than compared to losing when you are 22 or 23. There’s still a lot of basketball to be played. The joy of being in the league is still fresh.
It’s a different ball game as you grow older. The light at the tunnel seems to grow dimmer with every mounting playoff exit. Tracy McGrady knew that feeling all too well when he said in his 2007 exit interview after the Game 7 loss to Utah:
“I tried…..I tried my best man…”
Embiid hasn’t echoed those sentiments yet. But, you better believe that those thoughts have come.
“Can I win a championship here?”
“Do we have enough?”
“Do I have to leave to win one?”
For now, Joel Embiid looks to be all in with guiding the Sixers to its first Finals appearance since 2001, and the team’s first championship since 1983. However, if the Sixers bow out of the East without even making the Eastern Conference Finals again, those thoughts will become louder.
And it will be a matter of time before the thoughts start to dictate the movement of the person.
Remember: the same thoughts of whether a championship could be won with Russell Westbrook caused a prime Kevin Durant to leave for Golden State in 2017. Those thoughts inspired “The Decision”. LeBron James knows this. Though he’ll never say it.
Joel Hans Embiid is coming to that crossroad in his career. This season may be more important than we believe for the future of of the Philadelphia 76ers.
For now, let’s see how the season plays out.
But the thoughts are there…