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76ers' Joel Embiid Clinches 2021-22 NBA Scoring Title Ahead of Giannis Antetokounmpo

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVApril 10, 2022

David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Philadelphia 76ers superstar Joel Embiid officially clinched the scoring title Sunday after the Milwaukee Bucks ruled out Giannis Antetokounmpo for the team's season finale versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

Shams Charania @ShamsCharania

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid wins the 2021-22 NBA scoring title, the first center to lead the league in scoring since Shaquille O’Neal in 1999-2000.

Serena Winters @SerenaWinters

Coach Bud just said none of the doubtful players will play against the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Cavs?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Cavs</a> tonight ⬇️<br><br>No Giannis, no Brook, no Khris, no Bobby. <a href="https://t.co/8sTKEnvpgb">https://t.co/8sTKEnvpgb</a>

Embiid is currently averaging 30.6 points per game, just ahead of Giannis (29.9 PPG). LeBron James averaged 30.3 points per game for the Los Angeles Lakers this season but didn't play enough games to be eligible for the scoring title, leaving him out of the running. 

That a center won the scoring title in a modern game that emphasizes floor spacing and versatile guards and wings, and deemphasized post play, is all the more impressive. 

Kyle Neubeck @KyleNeubeck

"First scoring title for a center since Shaq in 2000" is impressive, but it should also be noted that Embiid is just the fourth to do it since 1980, and 2 of previous 3 years happened during Jordan's mid-career retirement (after which he came back and immediately won 3 straight)

Embiid is also the first center to average over 30 points per game since Moses Malone in 1981-82.

The scoring title will be one of the pillars of Embiid's MVP case, with the veteran big man in the running for the award alongside Antetokounmpo and Denver's Nikola Jokic. But he's also averaged 11.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.5 blocks per game, shooting 49.9 percent from the field, 37.1 percent from three and 81.4 percent from the free-throw line. 

Embiid also anchors Philly's defense, serving as one of the game's better rim protectors. Add it all up, and the big man believes he should be considered the league's best player this season. 

"If it happens, great," he told reporters earlier this week. "If it doesn't, I don't know what I have to do. I'll feel like they hate me. I feel like the standard for guys in Philly or for me is different than everyone else."

It would be hard to knock MVP voters for siding with either Jokic or Antetokounmpo—both have had absurdly good seasons. But it's hard to ignore the historically good season Embiid has had, and he would be one of the harder-luck MVP runners-up in recent memory if he doesn't take home the award. 

If nothing else, however, the scoring title is his.

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