Can Joel Embiid stay healthy and avoid injury for The Sixers? Let’s look at the great bigs from the past with health issues.
Will Joel Embiid ever live up to his potential or will injury end his dominance? Is he the next Shaq, the next Olajuwon or is he the next Greg Oden, Sam Bowie, or Andrew Bynum?
Just to let everyone reading this know, I am a Philly fan and I love my Sixers. During the 2014 draft, when the 76ers management drafted Joel with the 3rd pick, I was feeling despondent. No 7’0 big has ever suffered through serious injuries to the knee, foot, or back, then came back healthy.
The ones who finally get healthy it was after their athleticism had left them and they were only a shell of the player who previously held all the promise of an NBA superstar.
Players like Sam Bowie, who if you ever saw him in college or during his rookie year, saw a raw and athletic athlete, an imposing giant, jumping out of the gym.
Even after a serious tibia injury sidelined him for two full seasons at Kentucky. During Bowie’s rookie season in 1984-85, Sam played 76 games plus another 9 playoff games. The next season as he was going up for a board he broke his left tibia again.
When he came back the next season 5 games in he went up for a shot and when he came down he had fractured his right tibia this time. Once his athleticism was depleted he had a few pretty productive seasons in the early 90’s. Mainly as a backup.
Bill Walton was one of the greatest, most talented centers ever. As a pro he was almost never healthy. He’d play half a season, then miss the next season entirely. In 1978 Walton played 58 games and led Portland to an NBA title. The next four seasons Bill only played 14 total games. All 14 of these games came in the 1979-80 season. Three years out of four he didn’t play a single game.
The reason I was so despondent at the actuality of Philly drafting Embiid was because a 7’0 who has had serious injuries to the foot, back, or knee has never recovered to stay healthy for any serious amount of time. Joel Embiid had all these injuries before even entering the NBA.
Guys like Brad Daugherty and Yao Ming had multiple all-star seasons before their injuries started. Ralph Sampson saw four straight all-star appearances. Sampson played three full seasons but he only played 43 games the last year he was selected an all-star in 1987. He was never healthy again.
Andrew Bynum faced injury year after year until his career ended in his mid twenties. Greg Oden was drafted ahead of Kevin Durant but basically never got out of the starting gate. Arvydas Sabonis went through similar trials before coming to the league.
Not Anyone-Not Ever
So back to the beginning of the story. No one, not ever, not even once, ever has returned and remained unbroken. It’s my opinion it isn’t anything that’s wrong with the guys I’ve mentioned. I don’t think a 7 footer’s body especially the athletic ones are equipped to put that kind of stress on their bodies through the NBA’s grind.
The ones who do stay healthy, they are the anomaly. Joel Embiid I don’t think will be any different. Maybe he can pull off a Walton before it all goes to hell but that’s based on time, circumstance and just stupid luck.
Time, luck, and a Ben Simmons Jay. Why would he stay healthy? His injuries came faster than anyone else that I’ve mentioned.
A Leading Man
Embiid played 28 games for Kansas before cracks began to appear physically, hinting at a body that would soon be broken. That’s about a quarter of an NBA season. The stress on his body saw Embiid sit out all of the 2015 & 2016 NBA seasons. In 2017 Embiid played 31 games. Followed up by almost 65 each in the last 2 seasons.
Now with injury rumors and concerns entering the 2019 NBA playoffs, how long will it take Philadelphia to recognize that their process is really leading to another M. Night shymalon sequel. Set in Philadelphia, with Embiid reprising the role of Mister Glass.
When this happens no one should blame him, he was injured coming into the NBA and history shows what it shows. Blame the management team who was there when he was drafted for not knowing the history of the big man.
Breaking the Trend
With all the time that the Sixers management gave Joel Embiid to get healthy, will that be the difference for the Sixers? Will mentions of Joel Embiid make Sixers fans think of MVP’s or injuries in ten years?
The difference that breaks the mold or will it be Joel Embiid breaking? Time will tell the Sixers story with Joel Embiid, but if it follows the outline set before him, Embiid and the fans that love him will be broken inside.