BOSTON (AP) — Joel Embiid finally said it: Winning the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award has been a dream ever since he belatedly started playing basketball.
“I know I’ve always said I don’t care, but it was just for you guys to leave me alone,” the 76ers center said Wednesday, a day after he was voted to his first MVP after two runner-up finishes. “I do care in the way that it validates everything, all the work that you’ve put in. And to be sitting here is just amazing.”
A native of Cameroon who didn’t start playing basketball until he was 15, Embiid was the 76ers’ reward for tanking their way to the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 draft. But he missed two full seasons with foot injuries, leaving Philadelphia fans to wait while general manager Sam Hinkie insisted that they “Trust the Process.”
Injuries continue to keep Embiid off the court to this day: He missed Game 1 of Philadelphia’s second-round series against Boston and is officially listed as doubtful with a sprained knee for Game 2. Embiid said “it’s a possibility” he would play on Wednesday night.
“Just like it was a possibility in the first game,” he told reporters after doing some light shooting. “Obviously, I want to play.”
While acknowledging that the MVP was important to him, Embiid said he is still focused on his primary goal: winning an NBA title. The Sixers have not made it out of the second round of the playoffs since reaching the NBA finals in 2001.
“This is just one step to whatever I want to accomplish, which is to win championship,” he said. “I’m just competitive. I want it all. I want to win everything that I can get my hands on.”
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