Joel Embiid missed 10 consecutive games after suffering a bone bruise against the Washington Wizards in March, but the Philadelphia 76ers star thought he would be out much longer.
"As soon as I fell, the first thing that I'm thinking is: 'My season is over,'" Embiid told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne. "'There's no championship. There's no more MVP. There's no more Defensive Player of the Year.'"
Embiid went down March 12. An MRI done overnight revealed there was no structural damage to the knee, and he returned to help lead the 76ers to the top of the Eastern Conference.
The fall came in his first game back after a seven-day quarantine, as he came into close contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, he missed the NBA All-Star Game.
"I was like, 'Why does it always have to happen to me?'" Embiid said. "'I get so close every single time. Something always has to happen.'"
But he avoided serious injury, and his return has been outstanding.
In the 18 games he has played since came back from the injury April 3, Embiid is averaging 28.0 points and 9.5 rebounds. This season, he has posted 29.2 points and 10.7 rebounds on career-best shooting, as he's hitting 51.6 percent of his shots from the field and 37.7 percent from deep.
The highest-scoring center since Shaquille O'Neal won the MVP in 1999-2000 (29.7 points per game), Embiid would have had a legitimate case for earning his first MVP award if he hadn't missed that 10-game stretch.
He has +2700 (bet $100 to win $2,700) odds to win the award, just ahead of Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry (+3000). Nikola Jokic is leading the field at -3500, per FanDuel.
"I could get sad and mad about it, but I feel like everything that happens in my life happens for a reason," Embiid told ESPN. "And if the MVP wasn't supposed to be mine this year, I guess maybe it is not."
Embiid and the 76ers have three games left this season and a one-and-a-half game lead on the second-place Brooklyn Nets for the top seed in the East.
For all the latest betting information and reaction, check out B/R Betting.
Must be 21+ and present in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, West Virginia, Colorado or Tennessee. Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER. See sportsbook.fanduel.com for details.
Get the best sports content from the web and social in the B/R app. Get the app and get the game.