PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA - OCTOBER 20: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts during the third quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at Wells Fargo Center on October 20, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
By Bob Cooney
I’ve stated on the morning show many, many times my feelings about leadership in professional sports. To say that I think it is overrated is an underrated statement. Most, if not all, players that have reached the professional level have done so not only because of their talent but because of an inner drive that has enabled them to become one of the select few in the whole world to be able to do their profession.
If you tell me a team needs a leader, does that mean that the other players on that team are followers? Do you think if you talked to every individual on a team and asked them if they needed a leader to do their job better that they’d respond in any other way than a blow-you-off laugh and hand wave?
Now don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. I know there are great leaders, and it is a great quality to have and one that most admire. But when a team is labeled as “needing a leader,” to me, that team is beyond immediate repair.
That being said, I’ve never consider Joel Embiid a leader. I don’t say that in a bad way. There are many great, great players who don’t have that leadership quality. Joel Embiid is one of the best basketball players in the world. That, to me, is not debatable. And while I don’t believe that the likes of James Harden, Tobias Harris, P.J. Tucker and even Tyrese Maxey need to follow a leader, I do think that they feed off the energy of their best player in Embiid. And when he doesn’t have it, things like two straight sluggish-looking losses to Eastern Conference competitors happen.
There is so much to love about Embiid’s game, too numerous for me to outline here, but I believe if you’re reading this or listening you know what they are. The frustration that his game brings out in me often times overshadow the great player that he is. Now that could be a me problem, or it could be an Embiid problem.
We know he wears his feelings on his sleeveless jersey. Good and bad. Well, the bad needs to stop. Revving up the fans after a big basket or game-changing defensive play is always something we all enjoy. But the constant falling to the floor and being the last player back on defense and arms are waving in disgust over a non-call needs to stop. It’s certainly something a leader would be aware of, but, more importantly, they are energy-sapping routines that have become all-too common with him.
I don’t need Embiid to be a leader, and I bet most in the Sixers organization don’t either. But along with being the best player, I do need a better attitude. Maybe even the best attitude on the team. That I do want and perhaps the team needs.