Philadelphia 76ers star big man Joel Embiid has developed into one of the game’s best players. Embiid anchors the 76ers’ sustained success behind his stellar play. The star big man has ventured through his NBA career donning No. 21 as a tribute to one of his idols in Tim Duncan.
Joel Embiid’s rise to NBA stardom
Embiid entered the NBA as a highly-touted prospect after his impressive lone season at Kansas.
However, the Cameroon native’s career began on a rough note as he missed his first two seasons due to injury. Shortly after the 76ers chose him with the third overall pick in the 2014 draft, Embiid underwent surgery to repair a broken navicular bone in his right foot that forced him to miss the 2014-15 campaign.
In June 2015, Embiid suffered a setback in his rehab as a CT scan revealed that the healing didn’t progress as expected. He underwent a second surgery on his right foot two months later, effectively sidelining him for the 2015-16 season. After two years on the shelf, Embiid finally took the court for the 2016-17 campaign, where he quickly became one of the league’s top big men.
Since then, his minutes’ restriction has been lifted as he’s developed into one of the game’s best players. Over the last four years, he’s garnered four All-Star Game selections, and earned three All-NBA Second Team nods and three NBA All-Defensive Second Team selections.
He’s proven to be a game-changing factor on both ends of the floor while lifting the 76ers to sustained success behind four straight playoff berths. The only question mark around him remains his health as he battled through nagging injuries throughout his career.
Why does Joel Embiid Wear No. 21?
Embiid‘s rise to stardom with the 76ers has come with him wearing No. 21.
It’s a number that a few of the game’s greatest players have worn. In a tweet posted in June 2016, Embiid revealed that he chose the digits because of former San Antonio Spurs great Tim Duncan.
“One of my role models,” Embiid wrote. “I wear #21 because of him #TheBigFundamental”
Duncan holds the reputation as arguably the greatest power forward in NBA history. He’s achieved numerous accolades, such as winning five NBA titles and three Finals MVP awards, and earned two regular-season MVP awards. He also received 15 All-Star selections and 10 All-NBA First Team nods, garnered three All-NBA Second Team selections and eight NBA All-Defensive First Team nods, and had seven All-NBA Second Team nominations.
His illustrious NBA career earned him a first-ballot Hall of Fame induction, while his No. 21 jersey is retired by the Spurs and Wake Forest. Duncan places the bar high for Embiid as he uses the all-time great as a vital source of motivation.
Beyond that, he sets the standard that the 76ers big man hopes to one day replicate or surpass.
Remains the centerpiece of the 76ers’ future
Embiid‘s rise to stardom has earned him recognition as the face of the franchise.
Although he’s struggled with injuries, the 27-year-old has proven that he can guide Philadelphia to tremendous success. The 76ers are coming off earning the first overall playoff seed in the Eastern Conference for the first time in two decades.
Embiid’s stellar play earned him a four-year, $195.9 million extension that runs through the 2026-27 campaign. The 76ers are hopeful that the star big man lifts them to their first NBA title in nearly four decades.
All those factors firmly place the 76ers’ future in Embiid’s hands.
Contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.