Joel Embiid Re-Visits Game 7 vs. Raptors in NBA Playoffs
An emotional moment for Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid became a brand new meme for NBA Twitter to pass around last season. As the Sixers' seven-footer walked his way back through the tunnel at the Scotiabank Arena, TV cameras caught him pouring out tears after losing an emotional Game 7 in the second round of the NBA Playoffs.
While Embiid was upset at the moment, the Sixers' center didn't take offense to his version of the crying Jordan meme. As a matter of fact, he embraced it by setting his default Twitter picture to that exact moment.
Seeing Embiid laugh along with the rest of the basketball world was cool, but deep down, the Sixers' star was still deeply hurt by the way his team went out. After the Kawhi Leonard buzzer-beater shot, which is now infamous in Philadelphia, the 76ers had to watch the Toronto Raptors blaze their way through the remainder of the playoffs.
They went on to defeat the first-seeded Milwaukee Bucks, then dominated an injury-plagued Golden State Warriors team to win their first title in franchise history. Considering the Sixers were the only team to challenge the Raptors in the postseason that year truly, Embiid couldn't stop thinking about the "what-if" scenarios.
We're now in January of 2020, and Embiid is still taking time to re-visit that tough moment during the neck-and-neck, Game 7 matchup against Toronto last season. In a recent article, Embiid penned for The Player's Tribune; he couldn't help but bring up the moment he just can't seem to forget at this point.
"I don't think I've ever shown that kind of emotion on a basketball court in my life," Embiid wrote. "The game of basketball, it's not life or death. But it wasn't about the game, really. I had tears in my eyes walking off the court because of how much I wanted it for the city, and for my family."
Embiid then went on to explain how much that final critical moment of the Sixers' 2018-2019 season affected his summer. As he felt that perhaps he could've done more to help his team win that series, he couldn't let the moment go. Whenever Embiid would see a still picture of himself, standing by Kawhi Leonard watching the ball bounce back and forth before going in, he would practically obsess over it.
At first, there seemed to have been a bitterness towards that moment. Nowadays, though, Embiid mentions that he uses those images to help drive his ambition. "I wanted it to be burned into my brain as motivation," he said. And now that he felt the pain of losing in the playoffs in back to back seasons, Embiid is ready to win finally.
"I'm going to be back, and we're going to get this thing right," Embiid wrote, in regards to returning from his hand injury. "We're going to be a problem in the playoffs, I promise you." While the Sixers haven't looked like a total threat to the rest of the Eastern Conference, Embiid has mentioned before that he's preserving his dominance for the postseason.
Whether that's the correct way to go about this season or not remains to be seen. But we'll eventually find out as the season has reached its halfway mark with playoffs inching closer. Which seed the Sixers finish with will likely be a tight race -- but if Embiid remains as confident as he currently is in his team's will to win -- the seed shouldn't even matter.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_