Joel Embiid is a 24-year-old multimillionaire basketball player whose professional obligations to the 76ers for the 2017-2018 season ended three weeks ago. Nobody could reasonably have faulted him for packing a bag or three and jetting off to any number of exotic, swanky, and gorgeous destinations.
There’s still plenty of time for that this offseason. For right now, though, Embiid is taking the opportunity to actually live in the city where he works and to spread some joy in the (ahem) process:
— Debby Freedman (@debbylf) June 1, 2018
— Liam Goldrick (@lgoldrick25) June 1, 2018
— My Name is Jeff (@jnuzzi08) June 1, 2018
Embiid’s recent playground basketball forays have been covered here and elsewhere. Perhaps not surprisingly in a media landscape where everything is scrutinized into dust, some of the reaction pieces discussing Embiid’s recent penchant for some lighthearted playground basketball action skew negative:
How do the Sixers feel about their franchise player, who has a history of injuries, dominating the playgrounds?
The team’s president of basketball operations, Bryan Colangelo, declined to comment Tuesday. However, a team source acknowledged that Embiid would put himself at risk of having at least a portion of his five-year, $146 million contract extension voided if he suffers a serious injury that causes him to miss a substantial amount of time.
Wow, Tuesday was a simpler time, wasn’t it? I really miss Tuesday, when Bryan Colangelo’s only concern was declining comment on Embiid’s playground balling.
Certainly there is some risk attendant to Embiid playing basketball on rutted playground courts against overmatched amateurs. But none of the videos uploaded thus far show him diving for loose balls or dodging elbows from geeked-up opponents or even moving especially fast. So far, at least, everyone he has encountered seems to have understood that his random appearances on these courts are meant to be simple, silly and fun. Even if he doesn’t actually make it onto the court:
Joel from WAYYY beyond the arc.
Embiid is back at it in Philly parks, this time nailing shots from over a defending fence. 😂 pic.twitter.com/PBBeXCvQXt
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) May 31, 2018
Cynicism is super-easy (especially for me) and it is everywhere you look online. As such, the knee-jerk response to all of these impromptu public appearances from Embiid is often to look for some improper motive or for a lack of common sense. Now is a good time for Philadelphia sports fans to drop the self-loathing that motivates those responses.
The Eagles won the Super Bowl. The Phillies are in contention. The Sixers’ future is very bright. We agreed never to talk about the Flyers again.
And Joel Embiid, bless his heart, seems to really like living here and being a long thread in the city’s fabric.
Until such time as Embiid does anything to disprove his good intent – and to date, he has not – we should embrace a superstar who loves us back.