Over the first part of the season, Joel Embiid has built an amazing case to be the MVP of the league. Embiid’s amazing run of dominance has shown the world that he is seriously gunning for the MVP trophy, and he is willing to go through anyone to do it. Joel Embiid’s skillset is almost a fusion of the modern NBA and the past: he shoots the 3PT shot at a high level (38.1%), and he has an extremely effective game inside the paint, being able to stump the opponent with a flurry of post moves.

Joel Embiid’s game is reminiscent of another player of African descent, Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon. Hakeem Olajuwon notably won two championships in the 1990s with the Houston Rockets. There have been many parallels drawn between their game. In this article, we explore whether Joel Embiid is the modern incarnation of Hakeem Olajuwon.

 

Joel Embiid Was Influenced By Hakeem Olajuwon

It is no secret that Joel Embiid was greatly influenced by Hakeem Olajuwon. Joel Embiid’s influence from Hakeem Olajuwon is clear in his footwork, his ability to run the ball, and his ability to shoot the basketball. Hakeem Olajuwon was a center who was willing to take midrange jumpers and space the floor. Both were defensive powerhouses, and Joel Embiid is somebody who can anchor an entire defense due to his uncanny athleticism and speed for his size. While he hasn’t yet won any DPOY awards like Hakeem Olajuwon himself, it looks like he is trying to push his defense to that level this season.

In this clip, we see Joel Embiid call Hakeem Olajuwon his favorite of all-time. He mentions that he and Olajuwon have similar basketball backgrounds as well, both starting the sport late, but developing into elite stars. It is only natural that Joel Embiid gravitated to Hakeem Olajuwon as an idol in his younger days. There is one quote in the video that encompasses Embiid’s respect for Olajuwon fairly well.

When I started playing basketball, my coach back home in Cameroon gave me a tape of Hakeem. And I watched that tape at least 6 days out of 7 every week.

Just watching him move. So amazing. I’d go to the gym, watch whatever move he did, and do it by myself.

Meanwhile, Hakeem Olajuwon commented on what Joel Embiid says, stating that he’s honored that Embiid takes him that seriously.

I’m honored for him to take me that seriously. At the same time, he has the tools and talent to do those moves. That’s him. That’s his game. 

Every player is a unique basketball talent. But one can look at Joel Embiid, and see traces of Olajuwon’s game. The subtle fakes, the elite defense. Joel Embiid is able to handle the ball well for a center, and is a unicorn on the offensive end, being able to do anything on the court. Hakeem Olajuwon was someone who played in a prior era, yet he was similar to Embiid, being able to score from a lot of areas on the court. The two clearly have lots in common.

 

The Statistics Support Embiid-Olajuwon Comparisons

While it is crazy to think about Joel Embiid already being compared to a Hall of Famer, his MVP caliber play warrants those comparisons. During his 1993-94 MVP season, Hakeem Olajuwon averaged 27.3 PPG, 11.9 RPG, and 3.6 APG, as well as 1.6 SPG and 3.7 BPG. During the 2020-21 season, Joel Embiid is averaging 29.4 PPG, 10.9 RPG, 1.3 SPG, and 1.3 BPG. Their statistics are fairly similar, though Joel Embiid isn’t quite as good of a rim protector as Olajuwon quite yet. Olajuwon was the main scoring option on the Houston Rockets, just like Joel Embiid. Joel Embiid has shown that he is ready to reach the next level this season, and perhaps later in his career, he may even surpass Olajuwon.


Joel Embiid hasn’t played long enough in the NBA to determine whether he will eventually become a Hall-of-Famer like Hakeem Olajuwon. He seems to be on the right track though and he is finally putting everything together. Joel Embiid’s development of his all-around game like Olajuwon seems to be what is fueling this MVP run.

 

Joel Embiid Needs To Win

To fully complete his ascension as the modern version of Hakeem Olajuwon, Joel Embiid needs to follow in his footsteps and win a championship. While championships are not everything when evaluating a player, they are an important part of a superstar’s legacy. There is a real chance that Joel Embiid could win MVP this season: that will show his ability in the regular season, something that we very well know that he is capable of. If his domination of the league continues into the playoffs, then there is no defender in the league that can stop him.

The 76ers are a top team in the league, and they will follow Joel Embiid to wherever he leads. This year, Joel Embiid is living up to his MVP potential, while demolishing every team in his way. Hopefully, Joel Embiid can lead the 76ers to the promised land, while being able to share one more experience with his mentor: a championship win.

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