‘He’s A Little Bit Olajuwon … A Little Bit Garnett’| Sixers Head Coach Doc Rivers Calls Joel Embiid A Hybrid Of Two Hall of Fame Players

(Art By David Grubb)

Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid has been on a tear all season. He’s been downright dominant including a recent 42-point, 14-rebound, four-assists and four-block effort in a win over the Pelicans. It was his league-leading sixth 40-point outing this season.

Tonight Embiid faces the desperate Lakers and his main competition for NBA MVP, LeBron James. 

Embiid has been displaying his complete two-way dominance the entire season, highlighted by a game against the Orlando Magic, where he tied his career-high going for 50 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks.

That win prompted his head coach Doc Rivers to liken his star center to two Basketball Hall of Famers in Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin Garnett. In an interview with Sixers Wire, Rivers waxed poetic about the big Cameroonian.

“We talk about different guys, bigs that I’ve coached and been around, I was with David Robinson as a player…Patrick Ewing as a player and I coached Kevin Garnett and I always say he’s (Embiid) a little bit (Hakeem) Olajuwon and a little bit (Kevin) Garnett. It’s a helluva combination if you can get it. The difference is Joel can go out to the 3-point line which sets him apart. He’s Joel Embiid. He’s not any one of those guys. He’s his own guy …. He brings the ball up the floor. He’s just a talented, listen I said it last year when I got here, I knew he was good, I didn’t know he had all of this. I really didn’t. He had a game against us, I wanna say it was here when I was in LA, he destroyed us. I didn’t know he could still do all of this. It’s amazing.”

That’s high praise from Doc, considering how most basketball analysts view “The Dream” and “The Big Ticket,” aka “KG.”

Embiid Has the Skills, But Can He Stay Healthy?

He possesses the footwork and scoring prowess of Olajuwon, and the intensity of Garnett when locked in and fully engaged. He’s a great defender, as both of those legends were. He just needs some of the hardware these legends both have, like MVP trophies, Defensive Player of the Year Awards and NBA titles.

Doc isn’t too far off, as you can see the unique skill set Embiid possesses and how easy it is for him out there most nights. It’s all about his health and desire, because his talent is abundant. Dream and KG were durable and always available to take the court. That’s the biggest difference, your best ability is your availability.

Trust The Process

Before he became “The Process,” Embiid was drafted third overall in 2014 NBA draft. The former Kansas Jayhawk was a freakishly talented “project” who missed his entire first two seasons due to foot injuries and the death of his brother. The Sixers patiently waited for him as they entered tank mode and accumulated draft stock.

NBA MVP Candidate: Philly’s Franchise

In his seven NBA seasons Embiid has only played in 295 games, yet he holds impressive career averages of 25.3 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.0. blocks per game. This season he’s averaging a career high 28.7 points per game, including 34.6 in his last 15 entering Tuesday night. Sixers began the season 10-9 as Embiid missed nine games due to nagging injuries and COVID-19 protocols. They’ve since gone 18-10 with him back in the lineup nightly.

Any playoff aspirations in Philly start and end with “The Process,” especially with running mate Ben Simmons still on hiatus from the team.


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JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.