Come the NBA playoffs, when tensions and stress are at their peak, it’s not uncommon for a player to lash out at his opponent’s fans.
Case in point, last season’s MVP, Russell Westbrook, had very few kind things to say about Utah Jazz fans.
A somewhat common insult you get from players is the accusation that an opposing team’s fan base is casual and fairweather, as Philadelphia 76ers forward Ersan Ilyasova insinuated when asked about the differences between the Miami Heat and the Boston Celtics.
But one thing you don’t see very often? Star players calling out their own fans for being fairweather.
And yet, that seems to be what budding Sixers superstar Joel Embiid may have just done when discussing Sixers fans with reporters after practice on Wednesday, via NBC Sports.
“My mindset has always been, three, four years ago, no one was around, no one was talking about us,” Embiid said. “Anything new, that always comes, I’m like, ‘That’s nice.’ But like, where was everybody three or four years ago?”
Having the potential franchise savior openly ask where all the fans were three or four years ago is a stinging assessment of sports fandom.
Embiid also admitted that he’s never quite been able to come to terms with the lack of support the team received when he first started.
“I kind of hold grudges because three, four years ago we were the laughingstock of the whole NBA,” Embiid said. “Then now we’re here, everybody’s talking about us. I don’t think it makes a difference. (Philadelphia basketball icon) Sonny Hill always tells me, you can’t get too high, can’t get too low, you’ve got to always keep your balance.”
Embiid did eventually acquiesce that there were certainly some die-hard Sixers loyalists who stuck with the team through some of its worst years.
“I really appreciate that support,” Embiid said.
But to be fair, it really is hard to blame Sixers fans for tuning out for several years. As Embiid even admitted, the Sixers were absolutely the laughingstock of the NBA for a while. Why would any fan want to subject themselves to that? There was a horrific three-year stretch in which the Sixers won a meager 47 games. For comparison, the team won 52 games this year.
Philadelphia will try to even its second-round series against the Boston Celtics Thursday night in Boston. Philadelphia lost by a 16-point margin in Game 1.
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