76ers' Joel Embiid: I Can Play Like Shaq, Jordan, Kobe or Dirk Whenever I Want

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 20, 2022

Philadelphia 76ers' Joel Embiid reacts during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Orlando Magic, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Joel Embiid scored 50 points in just 27 minutes against the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night in a 123-110 win for the Philadelphia 76ers, scoring in every conceivable way possible.

So when he told reporters after the game that he could mimic the game of any number of NBA greats from the past, referencing a conversation he and teammate Tyrese Maxey had before the game, it didn't particularly feel like hyperbole. 

Rich Hofmann @rich_hofmann

Joel Embiid: "I said me because at times whenever I want, I'm able to be Shaq. And whenever I want, I'm also able to be Dirk or Kobe or MJ, guards really. Shooting off the dribble, pull-ups or ball-handling, just a combination of everything offensively."<br><br>"So, I was OK tonight." <a href="https://t.co/ivJriymC91">pic.twitter.com/ivJriymC91</a>

The tape doesn't lie, so we'll have to review some of Embiid's highlights from Wednesday night to see if his walk backed up his talk. 

Embiid said he could play like Shaquille O'Neal, who bullied his opponents unmercifully on the block. Embiid did the same to the Magic:


🔥 Joel has 20 PTS (8-10 FGM) in just the first quarter!<br><br>Watch Now on NBA League Pass: <a href="https://t.co/oz9UCQxdQa">https://t.co/oz9UCQxdQa</a> <a href="https://t.co/rLWCuL84Zi">pic.twitter.com/rLWCuL84Zi</a>

Philadelphia 76ers @sixers

STOP...<br><br>HAMMER TIME! 🔨 <a href="https://t.co/gFHQsoaibF">pic.twitter.com/gFHQsoaibF</a>

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Joel Embiid had 50 points and 12 rebounds in 27:03.<br><br>That's the fewest minutes played in a 50-point, 10-rebound game in the shot-clock era (since 1954-55).<br><br>h/t <a href="https://twitter.com/EliasSports?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@EliasSports</a> <a href="https://t.co/qk4fROCWtT">pic.twitter.com/qk4fROCWtT</a>

Synergy Basketball @SynergySST

Joel Embiid scored 29 points in post up situations in the 76ers' win over the Magic, among the highest totals of the last decade.

You want a little bit of Dirk Nowitzki from the big man? A little one-footed fadeaway? Yeah, Embiid has that in his bag:

Philadelphia 76ers @sixers

pump &amp; splash. <a href="https://t.co/1hFPdUmoAf">pic.twitter.com/1hFPdUmoAf</a>

OK, but surely the big man isn't playing like a superstar shooting guard out on the court like Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan, right? 

Maybe not exactly—he's a 7-footer and weighs 280 pounds, after all—but how many centers run a one-man break or hit a step-back three in someone's face?


Jojo going Coast to Coast!<br><br>Joel has 11 points early in Q1 on NBA League Pass ⤵<a href="https://t.co/oz9UCQxdQa">https://t.co/oz9UCQxdQa</a> <a href="https://t.co/K3mdFNekyl">pic.twitter.com/K3mdFNekyl</a>


Joel Embiid is in his bag, he has 47 PTS and 23 PTS in the 3rd quarter alone!!!<br><br>Q4 action on NBA League Pass: <a href="https://t.co/oz9UCQxdQa">https://t.co/oz9UCQxdQa</a> <a href="https://t.co/biaBOTyIvJ">pic.twitter.com/biaBOTyIvJ</a>

And Kobe fans in particular will recognize this type of move:

Philadelphia 76ers @sixers

this man is unstoppable. <a href="https://t.co/KxR8v2jMZd">pic.twitter.com/KxR8v2jMZd</a>

As Embiid's shooting coach Drew Hanlen tweeted earlier in the day, Embiid's study of players like Kobe and MJ is paying off:

Drew Hanlen @DrewHanlen

Study the legends &amp; you may become one… <a href="https://twitter.com/JoelEmbiid?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@JoelEmbiid</a> <a href="https://t.co/yO8fMjweDS">pic.twitter.com/yO8fMjweDS</a>

"I was a fan (watching Embiid tonight)," Maxey told reporters about the performance. "It was amazing."

Sixers head coach Doc Rivers had a few more comparisons for Embiid.

"He's a little bit [Hakeem] Olajuwon and a little bit [Kevin] Garnett—that's a heck of a combination," he told reporters.  "… I said it before that I knew he was good when I got here, but I didn't know he could do all this."

Embiid's offensive repertoire continues to grow while he still bangs on the boards (10.5 RPG) and anchors Philly's defense. Last year's MVP runner-up appears to be firmly on the shortlist of candidates for the award yet again. 

And he's borrowing from many of the greats from the past. The ability to be a little bit of Shaq, a little bit of Dirk and a little bit of Kobe is precisely what it means to be Embiid, and why he's one of the game's true superstars.