NBA

Why Giannis Antetokounmpo Won’t Knock Joel Embiid’s Self-Confidence

As any sports fan will tell you, professional athletes are rarely short of confidence. While everyone can go through a bad run of form, the best players believe they are going to find success the next time out; you can’t, after all, take the potential game-winning shot if you don’t think you’ll make it. Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, for one, definitely isn’t short on confidence.

In fact, the big man even went as far as proclaiming himself “the best player in the world.” While many would contend that Giannis Antetokounmpo holds that title, the Greek Freak didn’t take issue with Embiid’s bold statement.

Joel Embiid’s path to becoming ‘the best player in the world’

While Joel Embiid has developed into a star on the hardwood, the big man almost focused on a different sport. In Cameroon, he grew up as a volleyball player; he started playing basketball as a teenager, however, and linked up with Luc Mbah a Moute.

After attending a Basketball Without Borders camp, Embiid followed in Mbah a Moute’s footsteps and moved to the United States. After honing his craft on high school basketball courts in Florida, he headed to the college ranks and enrolled at the University of Kansas. While his potential was plain to see, Embiid’s time with the Jayhawks was a mixed bag; he dominated the paint and earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year honors, but missed the entire postseason with a back injury.

Embiid left Kansas after that season, but he couldn’t get over his injury issues. The big man had foot surgery shortly before the 2014 NBA draft; although the Philadelphia 76ers picked him third overall, he wouldn’t see the court until 2016. Since then, however, he’s been making up for lost time.

Joel Embiid thinks he’s better than everyone, including Giannis Antetokounmpo

If you asked most NBA fans who the best player in the world is, you’d probably split the title between LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo. Joel Embiid, however, is backing himself.

This year, the 76ers center is averaging 23.1 points, 12 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per outing. That stat line earned him a place in the NBA All-Star Game, where he dropped 22 points and pulled 10 boards during 29 minutes of action. His dominance isn’t isolated to glorified scrimmages, though; in the first game out of the break, the center carried his team to victory over the Brooklyn Nets.

“The All-Star Game was fun. Being there in the fourth quarter, doing my thing at the end of the game, I thought it was great,” Embiid said after that win over the Nets. “But the All-Star Game, just proving I’m here, I belong, and being the best player in the world, I just intend to keep coming out every single night and just play hard and trying to get wins and just go out and try to win a championship.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo has no problem with that assertion

On Saturday night, Joel Embiid got to put his claim to the test as his Philadelphia 76ers traveled to Milwaukee to meet Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. Unsurprisingly, the Greek Freak came out on top.

While Embiid scored 17 points and pulled down 11 rebounds, that wasn’t enough. His Sixers fell 119-98, as Antetokounmpo a 31 point, 17 rebound, 8 assist outing. Despite that dominance in the box score, Giannis didn’t knock the center’s confidence.

“At the end of the day, I feel like Joel is a great guy. Obviously, when I go on the court, I’m going to go as hard as I can, but off the court, I like him. I like his personality; he’s a down-to-earth guy,” Antetokounmpo explained. “We were good teammates in the All-Star Game. But at the end of the day, every player in the NBA should feel like he’s the best player. Like who am I to tell him he’s not the best player in the world? Who are we to tell him that he’s not the best player in the world?

“Everybody should feel that way,” Giannis continued. “But at the end of the day, you’ve got to go on the court, and if you feel that way, you’ve got to show it; so there’s nothing wrong with Joel feeling like he’s the best player in the world.”

As Giannis said, greatness comes down to what you do on the court, rather than what you say in the locker room. While Joel Embiid deserves to be confident, he might have gotten a bit ahead of himself; Antetokounmpo, on the other hand, is already elite.