While talking up Joel Embiid in a recent chat with the media, 76ers coach Doc Rivers couldn't help but invoke the name of Michael Jordan.
Apparently, his dominant defensive talent went under the radar in his playing days, just like Embiid's is now.
At one point, Doc even tagged Jordan as the greatest defensive player he's ever faced.
“I think he’s an underrated passer … ,” Rivers said of Embiid. “He doesn’t get enough credit for it. If you look at what he’s doing this year passing the ball compared to the last two years, it’s been unbelievable."
"I think Joel at the five is as good of a dominant center defensively as there is in the league,” said Rivers. “Because probably, he’s a scorer, it’s like Michael [Jordan] in some ways. No one really talked about Michael’s defense. But I can tell you he was the greatest defensive player that I played against. He was the best offensive player, too. So we don’t talk about that.”
Obviously, Jordan was a 9x All-Defensive player and winner of the 1988 Defensive Player of the Year. To this day, he's the only player in NBA history to win the scoring title, MVP, NBA Championship, Finals MVP, and be named to the NBA All-Defensive 1st team.
He mastered the game on both ends in an unprecedented way.
"I’m not sure we’ve seen a player like him [Michael Jordan] in my lifetime," said Jerry West on 'The Buster Show.' "Because his impressive play on both ends of the court. He was arguably, well I don’t think arguably, he was the best offensive player and the best defensive player in the league, we haven’t seen that. But the competitive nature of Michael was just unique.”
Today, it's rare for a player to be consistently great on both ends of the floor. It's often one or the other.
In a lot of ways, Joel Embiid (and guys like Kawhi Leonard) are going against the grain. As he continues his march to be the NBA's leading scorer, he's also making his presence known on the other end as well.
While the standard today is still relatively low, it is refreshing to see when a player shows so much strength on both ends of the court, just like Mike did years ago.