Joel Embiid is digging a path in the heart of Philadelphia

But even if the Sixers don’t advance, Embiid’s game has earned him a deep affection within his hometown. The Sixers have been shrouded in drama this season due to the commercial request of Ben Simmons, who was supposed to help Embiid in the pursuit of the championship but never took to the field before. traded with the Nets for Harden in February. Instead of derailing the season, Embiid remained mostly silent on Simmons and focused on the pitch, where he averaged 30.6 points, 11.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game.

Philadelphia has long been known as a difficult city in which to earn long-standing affection from fans. Only a few athletes have been able to achieve this, and often not without significant obstacles along the way: players like Julius Erving and Charles Barkley and, in other sports, the Eagles’ Brian Dawkins.

Other stars (er: Simmons) are often out of town.

“A lot of my job is to recruit free agents directly or even indirectly into the business,” said Daryl Morey, president of Sixers basketball operations. “And I think there’s a respect for the Philadelphia fan base that players have for being like, ‘Will they accept me or not?’

“Because if they don’t accept you, it becomes bad for everyone.”

Marc Zumoff, who was the Sixers’ play-by-play broadcaster for nearly three decades before retiring last year, said in an email that: “Philadelphia fans love to know they’re part of the process. .

“Whether they’re cheering, booing or singing in unison, they want to elicit reactions from players, coaches, officials or whoever their target is,” he said. “In Joel’s case, his expressions, his laps or especially when he stretches out his arms in exaltation, feeds the frenzy.”

He added: “Sometimes he reacts to fans; other times, they react to him. “

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