Now imagine if they were teammates.
When James became a free agent in the summer of ’18, Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers were hot on his tail. But LeBron ultimately took his talents to the Los Angeles Lakers, leaving Embiid and company hanging out to dry.
It wasn’t a terrible surprise seeing LeBron choose the Lakers over the Sixers. But that didn’t stop The Process from trolling the King just before he rejected Philly’s advances and pursued the glitz and glam of Hollywood instead.
LeBron James considered joining Joel Embiid on the 76ers
After four strong seasons with the Cleveland Cavaliers and another ring, LeBron became a free agent in 2018. Going into the process, the Lakers were ultimately viewed as the favorite to land his services. Even though LA was in the midst of a five-year playoff drought, easily its worst stretch in franchise history.
Meanwhile, the Sixers were on an upward trajectory. Following five consecutive losing seasons of its own, Philadelphia returned to the playoffs in 2017-18. Embiid was once again solid, as was the eventual Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons. With Embiid and Simmons each under 24 years old, Philly’s future outlook certainly looked brighter than LA’s did at the time.
The thought of James teaming up with rising stars Embiid and Simmons was tantalizing, to say the least. The 76ers pursued the three-time champ and felt they were “strongly” in the running, according to ESPN. And, as it turns out, the King strongly considered the Sixers too.
“I definitely thought long and hard about the possibilities of lining up alongside Ben [Simmons] and [Joel] Embiid,” James told ESPN‘s Rachel Nichols before explaining why he signed with LA. “I like the challenge … being able to help a team get to some places they haven’t been in quite a while. And obviously, the Lakers haven’t made the playoffs in a few years.”
Embiid attempted to sway LeBron from signing with the Lakers
The new league season wasn’t set to start until July 1, but the free-agent pitches were beginning well before that. At least they were for Embiid.
One day before the official start of free agency, Embiid took to Twitter as he so often does. By that point, rumblings were already growing that James was headed to Los Angeles as soon as possible. ESPN even posted a video of the King’s private jet landing in LA earlier that morning.
With time running out, the Process made a last-ditch effort to recruit the King. He did so by making sure LeBron knew his legacy in LA wouldn’t be as meaningful as it would be in Philadelphia or anywhere else.
“The Lakers are FOREVER gonna be Kobe’s and Magic’s team … Process that.”Joel Embiid
Perhaps no franchise has a greater collection of Hall of Famers than the Lakers. Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson are just two of the superstars to don the Purple and Gold, joined by the likes of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, and more. Would LeBron want to become just another star on LA’s lengthy list?
As we know now, he did. On July 1, Klutch Sports announced James signed a four-year deal with the Lakers for $154 million.
LeBron James and Joel Embiid are each MVP candidates
Approximately three-and-a-half years after LeBron decided to join the Lakers over the 76ers, it’s hard to say his decision was a poor one. The King delivered LA its 17th championship and his fourth individual title. He has also found a superstar running mate in Anthony Davis to take the sting out of not playing alongside Embiid.
But don’t worry about Joel. Despite never advancing past the second round of the playoffs, Embiid is doing everything he can to overcome Ben Simmons’ holdout and deliver Philly to the promised land. Just ahead of his primetime matchup against James and the Lakers, the 7-footer is averaging a career-best 29.0 points to go with 10.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists. The 27-year-old is now firmly in the mix for league MVP.
If Embiid wants to win his first MVP, he’ll have to get past James and several others. Although the Lakers are just 24-24 and a shell of the title team from two years prior, LeBron has been better than ever. The 37-year-old is averaging 29.1 points, his highest since 2009-10 with Cleveland, along with 7.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists. If LA can have a strong second half, LeBron will be right up there with Embiid in the MVP conversation.
Still, one can’t help but wonder how dominant Philadelphia might’ve been with James and Embiid playing side-by-side. Though it’s possible the Process’ tweet the night before free agency didn’t help the prospects of that happening.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.