The big man has largely been phased out in today’s NBA with the exception of Joel Embiid who is impressing Shaquille O’Neal in a big way.
Joel Embiid is one of the leading candidates for the NBA MVP as the league reaches the halfway point. The Philadelphia 76ers center is having a career-year, averaging 29.8 points per game and 11.3 rebounds per game and his play has caught the attention of one of the game’s last great bigs, Shaquille O’Neal.
“He’s playing up to his size,” Shaq said during an appearance on The John Kincade Show. “He’s playing with a lot more enthusiasm and he’s getting the numbers that it takes to be a big man in the MVP category.”
“Any big man can get 20 [points], any big man can get 23, but it takes a special big man to average over 28 and dominate the way he did.”
The double-double machine isn’t just putting up big numbers but he’s having a big impact on his team’s chase for a top seed in the Eastern Conference, single-handedly taking over games. Shaq pointed out the performance he had against the Chicago Bulls that moved him to tears.
“The game he played the other day [against the Bulls] had me in tears. I haven’t seen a big man play that way in a long time. I haven’t seen a big man in the MVP conversation in a long time.”
Joel Embiid is making a serious case to win the MVP
With the exception of Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo who is a different type of big than Embiid, the MVP has mostly been focused on the perimeter players in recent years.
It’s even been eight years since LeBron James won the MVP but Embiid’s play in the first half of the season has him in position to bring the award back to Philly and the old school center.
We’ve seen this type of play from Embiid in the past but it hasn’t been sustained for myriad reasons, including injuries, which is something Shaq cautioned with a long way to go before the playoffs begin.
“But! Don’t get too happy,” Shaq cautioned. “Because in the NBA there are three seasons: the first half [of the regular season], the second half, and the playoffs. And if you dominate in all three seasons, especially the playoffs, then Philadelphia is gonna be a happy city.”
If Embiid can continue his pace he’s displayed so far and Ben Simmons can continue to play as well as he’s played, the 76ers will be a tough out in the NBA Playoffs.