Joel Embiid is having a tremendous season so far and is the leading MVP candidate, according to a big percentage of NBA fans and analysts. After some harsh criticism in the last few years, it seems Embiid took that personally and elevated his game, even more, showcasing incredible improvements on both ends of the floor.
In a recent interview for The Athletic, Embiid talked about the inspiration he actually received from Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley to work on his game and getting himself in shape to be a truly dominant player. Barkley and Shaq are often critical of younger players, and sometimes they can cross the line with their commentary like they did with Rudy Gobert, which initiated a lot of criticism from the fans who thought they took it too far.
Embiid credited both Barkley and Shaq for recognizing his talent and telling him what he needs to do to become the player he is this season, putting up big numbers and leading his team.
When all those guys, Shaq, Charles [Barkley], they just kept talking about how dominant I could be, I understood. They saw the talent. They saw what I could really do. But I wasn’t using it. I wasn’t doing it. So when they were criticizing me, I just saw it as a way to kinda open my eyes and actually be better.Joel Embiid, via The Athletic
Unlike many other players who often believe criticism is a personal attack on them, Embiid understood there are several things he needs to improve and do better than before. That approach has proved to be successful, so Embiid is thankful to Shaq and Barkley for opening his eyes on elevating himself to one of the best players in the NBA this season.
“So instead of using it as criticism, I just took it to want to be better. So when I look back, when that was going on, I have nothing but love for Shaq. Because whatever they were saying, it just opened my eyes to actually realize that I can be that guy.”Joel Embiid, via The Athletic
Embiid is averaging a career-high 30 points per game to go alongside 11 rebounds, and on top of that, he is an essential factor on the Sixers’ defense. The Sixers are currently second in a very competitive eastern conference and, as a team, are finally looking like they can make a stronger push in the playoffs. A lot of that success is dependent on Embiid’s performance, and if he can translate that to the postseason, the Sixers will have an excellent chance to beat any team in the league.
76ers star Joel Embiid sits down with @Stadium: “There’s no doubt (I’m MVP). I’ve been dominant all season. I’m not going to stop.” On motivation from feeling disrespected and frustrated last season, Shaq’s criticism “opened my eyes to actually realize that I can be that guy.” pic.twitter.com/Ud3O2APOkV
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) April 22, 2021