Joel Embiid hates it here. It’s so obvious with how he always jokes around on social media and laughs with teammates during games. Imagine a generational talent with great aspirations comfortable in a city suited to his likeness: how absurd. Sarcasm aside, I’m supposed to believe Embiid and Philly don’t mesh at all, yet the man radiates positivity. It’s almost as if the “hatred” isn’t actually real. The media promotes drama in the NBA.
Monday evening, Joel Embiid, frustrated, posted on Instagram and claimed to be the villain. This followed the Sixers’ winless road trip and criticisms that Embiid was too out of shape, or simply didn’t want to win bad enough. Never mind that Embiid just recovered from a hand injury that sidelined him for nine consecutive games and most of January. Never mind the continued scrutiny of the Sixers’ starting rotation, that often does less to enhance their strengths than amplify their weaknesses.
Former teammate Jimmy Butler responded to the post and cryptically invited Embiid to join him on the Miami Heat. The sports media landscape proceeded to have a field day, while Sixers fans went into full meltdown mode. Rumors that Embiid wanted out of Philly bombarded my Twitter, Instagram and Reddit feed Monday night, as I quietly hoped this was all part of some very unfunny joke. Then Joel proceeded to drop a casual 26-point-winning performance against one of the best teams in the NBA and sent us to bed with the most simultaneously enraging-yet-relieving ‘gotcha’ Instagram post possibly ever. I have seldom seen such a nothing story cause such an overnight ruckus and be forgotten about before bedtime the next day.
This is, unfortunately, not uncommon for NBA media coverage. A network swears by their trusted sources that a player is unhappy on a team, even if wholly untrue.
“Embiid wants to be the man… Simmons wants to be the man. They’re jealous of each other,” said ESPN Analyst Chris Broussard in a 2020 interview.
They then cover the story that was elevated by none other than themselves and pat each other on the back for a job well done. This is dangerous because, while the drama covered may be mostly imaginary, the potential to cause real problems with enough insisting is very real.
“They always trying to break up a good team like the 76ers… the media turn the two stars against each other ….,” said former player Nick Young on Twitter.
This isn’t to say that Joel isn’t partly responsible for the pandemonium. The coverage was effectively a reaction to Embiid and Butler’s exchange. However, those who report have to uphold the responsibility to be truthful, not speculate and present it as truth. The race to be first or have an interesting headline is a dangerous one, especially in a sport where, in the Sixers’ case, building to get a player of Joel’s value takes three years.
It just wouldn’t be Philadelphia sports if it didn’t feel like us against everyone.
Daniel Weiss is a third-year student majoring in media & culture and minoring in business and technical writing. DW887053@wcupa.edu