Joel Embiid's top priority is to win games for the Philadelphia 76ers. However, the superstar center has made it known he wants to be acknowledged for his outstanding play by earning accolades along the way.
Last season, Embiid was mighty close to becoming the NBA's Most Valuable Player. By the time the All-Star break approached, Embiid was arguably the front runner for the award. Unfortunately, a sudden setback at the start of the second half of the season jeopardized Embiid's chances of winning as he missed a notable chunk of time.
When Embiid eventually returned, he continued to play at a high level. On the other hand, Denver Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic was having a phenomenal season of his own while remaining healthy.
The two centers finished at the top. It's unclear if Jokic's availability allowed him to win the hardware or not as he played in 21 more games than Embiid, but it's a popular sentiment, which Embiid himself believes in.
"The main thing with me has always been health," Embiid said following Wednesday's game against Orlando. "I think last year, if I played ten more games than I did, I probably end up winning, especially being the first seed and the numbers that I was putting up. So, the main thing is just being healthy, and this year, we've had so much going on and missing our second-best player, and it's been a lot to do."
It's been a long season for Embiid. After battling knee soreness early on and going through a rough bout with COVID-19, the Sixers center took a little longer to dominate than he did last yet. Once he got the ball rolling, though, Embiid has never looked better. And on Wednesday, he had one of the best performances of his career as he dropped 50 points in 27 minutes.
"I love the challenge," Embiid explained. "My teammates have been there for me, and I love the challenge. It's up to you guys to figure out [the MVP voting], but based on the circumstances and the way I've been playing for the past whatever games that's been. . . I don't know. It's up to you guys to decide. I'm trying to play at the best level possible that I can, and that's being the best player in the world. For us to win, I have to be that guy every single night."
Embiid noted that it's still too early to decide who the MVP is since the Sixers just reached the midway mark of the season. While a lot can change in the near future -- for better or for worse -- there's no denying that Embiid should be up there with the early frontrunners to become the NBA's Most Valuable Player.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.