Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid was noticeably frustrated after losing the 2021-22 NBA MVP Award to Denver Nuggets Nikola Jokic. The man had been on top of the MVP race for most of the season but got booted out in the latter part after a year of critical losses. 76ers forward Georges Niang shared how hungry Embiid was for that hardware and completely understood where the Cameroonian was coming from.
Craving for a legacy
Niang revealed that Embiid simply wants respect from his peers. The MVP trophy is good proof of this. Niang also said that Embiid looks up to Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan — considered two of the greatest players in history. Jordan has five MVP plums on his resume, while Kobe has one.
“Jo has looked at Kobe (Bryant) or (Michael) Jordan and seen like, when you compare these guys, these are the accolades that they’ve won for people to respect and I think Jo wants to be like the best big man to ever play and one of the best players to ever play and he realizes that he ain’t getting any younger and these are accolades that you need to have that puts you in categories because nobody’s gonna remember your season six years ago. They’re only gonna remember if you won MVP,” Niang said.
It’s not a trivial pursuit. Winning the MVP does put you among the greatest players in the game. It’s an uphill climb that Embiid has been in for the last few years. And so it’s difficult to imagine the pain he went through upon knowing that he lost.
Embiid made the headlines for his comments after losing the MVP race. While he sent out his congratulatory remarks to Jokic, the Cameroonian had a long rant that contained his bitter feelings about how people vote.
“So, I guess, every year is all about whatever you guys decide, whatever fits the narrative as far as who’s gonna win,” Embiid said then.
“Like I said, I don’t know what else I have to do to win it. To me, at this point it’s whatever. It’s all about focusing—not that I wasn’t focused on the bigger picture—but it’s really trying to put all my energy into the bigger picture, which is to win the whole thing,” Embiid added.
This little tirade was not a good look for Embiid. It’s the type of rant one shares on a beer table with his close friends — not in front of millions of people. Besides, those people that Embiid took a subtle jab at were the ones who voted. Some of them were probably turned off (if they already weren’t) by the center’s antics.