Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid did everything he could in the offseason to ensure he stayed healthy throughout the 2020-2021 NBA season. Throughout the first half of the year, Embiid missed a handful of games but never two games in a row.
As he led the Sixers to wins and stayed relatively healthy in the process, Embiid was the clear frontrunner for the MVP award by the time the All-Star break rolled around.
Just as everything felt right for the Sixers' big man, things started to go left slowly. Not only did Embiid miss the 2021 NBA All-Star game due to contact tracing, but he also missed the first game back from the All-Star break.
And when Embiid did finally return to the court after having a little more than a week off, the four-time All-Star lasted just over three quarters before seeing his successful season flash right before his eyes.
After successfully throwing down a monster dunk, Embiid hyperextended his knee. The seven-footer crashed to the ground and grabbed at his knee while his teammates and the Sixers' medical staff surrounded him.
Eventually, Embiid made his way up and limped to the locker room using his own power, but he couldn't help but think of the worst-case scenario for himself. Ever since getting drafted to the 76ers, Embiid has dealt with several significant injuries throughout his career. So, the idea of his MVP campaign ending prematurely due to a physical setback was something that Embiid believed would surely happen to him.
"When I got hurt and was laying on the floor in Washington, honestly I thought I was done," Embiid said on Saturday night after playing in his first game in over three weeks. "I thought my season was done. The pain, how bad it was hurting. I just knew that it was something worse than what we saw after."
The 76ers initially believed that Embiid was dealing with a hyperextension, but they couldn't be sure until the big man received an MRI the following morning when the 76ers touched down in Philly after a flight from D.C.
"I was just crying and asking myself, 'Why me? Why does it always happen to me?' You know, when everything seems to be going well with the team and myself, something always has to happen." Embiid continued. "I'm glad it wasn't anything bad, and I'm able to get back on the court and help the team go on a championship run."
Fortunately, Embiid's MRI results came back clean. With no structural damage detected, he was diagnosed with a bruised knee. Although he missed ten-straight games, the big man is back now and easing his way back into his MVP-caliber play.