What good is a series without a trilogy? For the third time, The Sports Fan Journal heads on the NBA Journey. For the first two years, we had a level of surety as to where our destination would be. The first year, we were correct. The second, we were correct in location, but not in victor, as the Toronto Raptors won the title last year. Now, the NBA springs anew and for the first time in a while, we’re not totally sure where our destination lies. This allows for a current kind of exploration. Let’s continue with our next installment after a week of games.
Song of the Week: Undertale OST – “Wrong Enemy”
Humility can be just as detrimental to a person as confidence. In their moderate forms, they’re not diametrically opposed to each other. It is vital to possess both in a balanced — not necessarily equal — ratio. But tip too far one way or the other and it can hinder a person. It is just as bad to be overconfident as it is to overly doubt oneself. In the words of Coach Ted Orion of Disney’s D3: The Mighty Ducks during his speech about confidence, “…not careless, but not too careful, either” is how we should navigate life.
Confidence in sports leads to some measure of bravado, especially at the pro level. The work and talent it takes to excel to that point is extreme. Add on being one of the game’s best and that formula can boost confidence well past arrogance.
Enter Joel Embiid.
Only Embiid’s massive frame is big enough to hold the bravado he possesses. It’s one thing to be the NBA’s best seven-footer. It’s another to know it and revel in that fact. He’s overcome most of the nagging injuries that kept him from playing in the first two seasons after being drafted. But now, he’s tapping into that potential. Dominant on both ends of the floor, his ceiling is the best player in the Association. And just like Shaquille O’Neal before him, he is all parts showman, destructive force and intimidator.
Embiid is known for his trash talk as much as his game. He’s had some choice words for the likes of Russell Westbrook and Andre Drummond. His bravado may partially fuel his play, but it can cause him to lose focus—taking away from just how productive he can be.
The Sixers center swore off trash talk at the beginning of the year. He wanted to focus on his much-maligned conditioning and durability, key factors in a possible Philadelphia Finals run. Most of us didn’t take him seriously, citing that those who are mouthy just can’t help themselves when opportunity presents itself. And while the Sixers have had their share of offensive issues, Embiid has still been quite impressive.
Christmas Day featured a showdown between the Sixers and last year’s MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks have the best record in the NBA and Giannis is having one of the best individual seasons ever. Embiid took the challenge of being the main defender on Giannis. Antetokounmpo shot 8/27 overall, with Embiid flat-out daring him to shoot threes. Embiid himself had 31 points and 11 rebounds in just 28 minutes. After the game, he was given a chance to gloat. Instead, he stood firm in his refusal to talk trash. He’s focused on getting better and making it to the playoffs healthy and energetic, instead of just winning the way of words and not playoff series.
Undertale is everything conventional about video games with an amazingly unconventional twist. It plays like most games — navigate this world, defeating enemies to reach the end of the levels. Players gain experience and levels while traversing this insanely difficult game. Then the game turns completely on its head. At the end, it is revealed that the monsters in the game just wanna live in peace. And by attacking them, players go completely against the intent of the game. The game then cruelly punishes players by showing the “bad” ending. Additionally, the actual file remembers what players having done in previous playthroughs, admonishing for attempting to play again with newfound knowledge. It does not allow forgiveness in its purest form and the lessons learned by players do not change the past.
Joel Embiid cannot erase his past history of trash talk. But he can move forward with the knowledge that his best way to navigate his game is to focus on how he should dominate and leave “enemies” alone. His greatness can do the talking for him.
Nine weeks in and the Journey continues. Enjoy the holidays and happy NBA, folks.
Poemer. 8-time Hug Champion. Pick&Roll Enthusiast. Guardian of Logic and Tact. Apocalypse’s good Brother. Collector of muted souls for Mt. Filtermanjaro.