There was a time when it felt like we’d never get to see how good Joel Embiid could be in the NBA. The end of Embiid’s one-year college career at Kansas was cut short by a stress fracture in his back, and as he entered the 2014 NBA Draft he had to immediately have surgery on a broken navicular bone in his right foot.
Embiid probably would have went No. 1 overall if he was healthy. Instead, the Cavs picked Andrew Wiggins first, the Bucks took Jabari Parker at No. 2, and Embiid fell to Sam Hinkie’s Philadelphia 76ers at No. 3 overall.
Back and foot injuries are terrifying for a 7-foot, 280-pound center — NBA history will tell you that much. Embiid never lost confidence in himself, though. Just after he was drafted, Embiid went on Twitter and predicted he would soon win MVP.
What a time capsule this is. Embiid’s tweet was so long ago that Stephen Curry hadn’t even become a superstar yet. Curry’s run would happen during what should have been Embiid’s rookie season, but of course the Sixers big man didn’t play.
Embiid missed his first two years with foot injuries. He opened up about the dark times at the start of his career during his MVP press conference:
Embiid finished in second place in MVP voting the last two years behind Nikola Jokic. Jokic was bidding to become the league’s first three-peat winner since Larry Bird.
After what Embiid has been through, winning MVP is an incredible achievement. The fact that he spoke it into existence makes it even better.