Joel Embiid’s latest 76ers franchise milestone underscores just how far he’s come in his career

After being drafted third overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 2014 NBA draft, Joel Embiid spent the first two seasons of his career entirely on the touchline, where he sustained a foot injury. During this time, there were many who predicted Embiid would become the next in a long line of great men whose promising careers were derailed by injury troubles, and doubted he would ever even take part in a game – let alone become a dominant two-piece would-way star around whom you can build a consistent contender.

When Embiid only played 31 games in his rookie season before being benched again, this time with a knee injury, the questions only intensified. No need to pull the receipts, but they’re out there.

There was a lot of pessimism about the big guy’s future, especially in Philadelphia. Embiid heard all this chatter and as a young player he let it get to him. That outside noise, coupled with the death of his brother Arthur in 2014, forced Embiid to consider leaving the game before he ever scored a single point for Philadelphia.

“When I came back to Cameroon, I really wanted to stop playing basketball and really retire because at that point you just had surgery and everyone’s talking, ‘You’re not going to make it, or you’re never going to play in the basketball league. ‘ And of course the loss of my brother was great. I was going to give up and I almost did,” Embiid recalled last season. “Basically you miss two years in a row and all these stories that come out every day: ‘Joel is whatever, 300 pounds’ and the media they always talk bad about you. It was tough. I went through a lot. It was very tough, but I’m glad that with the help of everyone around me, I just got through it.”

That backdrop makes the milestone Embiid accomplished on Wednesday night all the more impressive. With a bucket early in the first quarter of Philadelphia’s 118-112 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, Embiid became the fastest player in 76ers franchise history Earn 10,000 career points while passing Sixers icon Allen Iverson.

Embiid needed just 373 career games to hit the bull’s eye, while Iverson needed 378. Then there’s Julius Erving (425), Charles Barkley (445), and Billy Cunningham (477). Those are some legendary names on this list, and that should help put Embiid’s production in perspective. Nobody is more synonymous with scoring basketball while wearing a Sixers uniform than Iverson, and the fact that Embiid overtook him by five numbers really says something.

Embiid is a generational scorer at a position that’s largely out of the game, at least in his traditional form, and when he finally hangs his signature Under Armours, he’ll go down as one of the most prolific point producers of all time. As it stands, he’s currently the all-time NBA leader in points scored per 36 minutes. Had he not had a minute limit early in his career, he would have hit the 10K even quicker.

The big man obviously deserves a lot of credit for persevering through those early injury woes and morphing into a polished, versatile goalscorer and enduring MVP contender. Similarly, as an organization, the Sixers also deserve some props for the patience they’ve practiced. They didn’t knock Embiid down or give him up. Instead, they allowed him to progress and play at his own pace when he was ready, and they’ve benefited from that ever since.

Embiid has guided the Sixers to four Conference semifinals in the last five years, and this year they’re hoping to go even further with a retooled roster and a reinforced bench. In the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with acknowledging how special Embiid’s run in Philly has been so far.

“It’s impressive, especially in the position he’s playing because he needs the ball to score,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said of Embiid’s milestone after the game. “Guards have the ball, they can kick the ball whenever they want. So that just tells you how dominant Joel was.”

Embiid has already established himself as an all-time great for the Sixers, and at just 28, he has a lot of legacy to write about.

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