- Joel Embiid scored 33 points, with 10 rebounds, 3 assists, and 5 blocks on Thursday to help the Philadelphia 76ers take a 2-1 series lead over the Toronto Raptors.
- After Embiid threw down a windmill dunk, ESPN’s Mark Jackson said that if Embiid stays healthy, it would be a “crime” if he’s not mentioned in the argument for greatest big man ever.
- ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy lashed out, telling Jackson to “pump the brakes,” saying it was disrespectful to NBA legends like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Shaquille O’Neal, and more.
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Joel Embiid helped the Philadelphia 76ers take a 2-1 series lead over the Toronto Raptors on Thursday with a dominant, 33-point, 10-rebound, 3-assist, 5-block performance.
It was a return to form for Embiid, who struggled through injury and a case of gastroenteritis in Games 1 and 2.
In the fourth quarter, Embiid put the final stamp on the game, with a driving, windmill dunk that eventually led the Raptors to call a timeout. As the teams went into the huddle, ESPN analyst Mark Jackson said it would be a “crime” if, barring injury, Embiid doesn’t finish his career as one of the big men of all-time.
Moments later, fellow analyst Jeff Van Gundy shot back, saying, “Pump the brakes!”
Van Gundy then criticized Jackson for putting Embiid in the discussion so early into Embiid’s career (this is just his third season playing basketball, as he was injured for the first two years of his career).
“We’re not gonna do that to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Shaquille O’Neal, Hakeem Olajuwon, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing,” Van Gundy said. “Pump your brakes.”
Jackson responded that the “evidence is in front of us,” reiterating that if Embiid can stay healthy and have a long career, he’ll be in the argument.
Jackson famously said in 2013, when he was the coach of the Golden State Warriors, that Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson were the greatest shooting backcourt ever. This was before the Warriors’ rise and before Curry won an MVP. The opinion is not controversial now, but it made headlines at the time.
Van Gundy on Thursday joked that he allowed Jackson to make that statement in 2013, but wouldn’t allow his Embiid opinion to stand.
Watch their argument below:
Embiid flashed his all-around game on Thursday and proved to be the matchup nightmare that can put the 76ers over the top.
His aforementioned dunk not only showed his nimbleness but showed how opponents respect his three-point shot (he made three of four in Game 3).
Embiid also turned several Raptors away at the rim, perhaps none so violently as his fellow countryman Pascal Siakam when the Raptors’ Cameroonian forward attempted to dunk on Embiid.
The 76ers have the chance to take a commanding series lead in Game 4 on Sunday. A trip to the Eastern Conference Finals would only further boost Embiid’s resume and back Jackson’s argument.
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