Thursday night Joel Embiid called Deandre Ayton out on Twitter for not playing defense. The Phoenix Suns and Philadelphia 76ers might have a budding rivalry on their hands.
It is one thing for a player to call out another while the two have been playing in the league together, or at least are entering the NBA at the same time.
It is also another for one player to say that another “doesn’t play defense” when it is a total statistical inaccuracy.
If you haven’t heard this story of how Shaq used this false narrative to help fuel himself to become one of the most feared players the NBA it is definitely one revisiting.
Embiid may have just handed Ayton the fuel he needs to take over the title as best big man in the NBA.
The fact that the tweet was said should be enough, the fact that it was said live on TV, during his interview after his name was called should enrage him.
That was Ayton’s moment, and Joel wanted the world to know it’s his NBA.
Although his “process” took two years to actually begin, Embiid, the resident title holder of best big man in the league, has lead the revolution of today’s big men. One who can not only dominate inside but also on pick and rolls, here they can pull up for a 15-foot jumper or can also drain the 3.
He has also slid into the role of beloved big man similar to Shaq. Others have tried – such as Dwight Howard – but failed. A strong personality and good grasp on social media has allowed Embiid to garner fans across the globe – and also the attention of Rihanna. That still pales in comparison to Shaq fibbing about him sleeping with Cindy Crawford, among others.
With that tweet about Ayton, Embiid seems to have taken on the role of The Admiral by attempting to foil any comparisons and also destroy him publicly regarding his defense before the rookie even gets to pull ovr an NBA uniform.
This was not an autograph, but it was a challenge, and very real and as a number one draft pick Deandre Ayton should see it as such.
The Suns need him to see it that way. They would even love for him to become a social media darling like Embiid, but ultimately he was brought here to dominate on the court and not on Twitter, and he will be given every opportunity to do so.
Ayton will be asked to help lead a franchise back to the playoffs and hopefully dodge a two-year wait as Philadelphia did with Embiid.
Hopefully Embiid fueled a desire in Ayton more than ever before, and has set up some great future match-ups.
The question now is, will Ayton respond? Will he take the road of Shaq and say he plans to dunk on Embiid each time they meet, or will he take the high road letting his game speak for itself.
The consensus around the league, simply put by Draymond Green, and seems to be that of the Romans and their desire for gladiator sports: We Want More!
The 10 years of the Admiral vs Shaq had its ups and downs and even some petty moments. Ultimately though, it produced great basketball and heated rivalries, everything the NBA needs.
The Phoenix Suns and Philadelphia 76ers have one thing in common: they are young. But now they both have transcendent centers on their rosters to help lead a revolution at the position and hopefully championship duels.
But the personal match up has now been set, similar to David vs Shaq, and we can only hope for 10 years of Ayton vs Embiid!