Joel Embiid outdueled fellow big man Nikola Jokic on the court, but it’s what he did afterwards that has ruffled a few feathers.
Reigning Finals MVP Jokic and reigning regular season MVP Embiid met for the first time this season on Tuesday night.
Embiid got the better of the Serbian superstar on the night as he recorded 41 points, seven rebounds and ten assists while leading the Sixers to a 126-121 win.
Despite the loss, Jokic still managed 24 points and 19 rebounds, continuing his ultra-consistent record for the season.
After the game, Embiid called Jokic the best player in the league during his post-game interview, which didn’t sit well with NBA analyst Richard Jefferson.
“Look, if you’re the reigning MVP, he’s the reigning MVP,” Jefferson said on NBA Today. “Even Giannis said it. Look when you win the MVP, if you win the Finals MVP, you can give him credit in that moment. But to go and play against this man, and we know how close they are, and like ‘Look, he’s the best player in the world’, you’re telling me as your teammate that when we step on, we’ve got the second-best player on the floor or at least that’s your mentality. You’re saying it to the world…If you have terrible playoff performances, I don’t want to hear you bigging up somebody else.”
Jefferson’s fellow analyst, Austin Rivers, agreed wholeheartedly.
“I don’t like it at all,” Rivers said. “I love humility but (that was) from the wrong guy. Not him. He’s a guy, first off people are going to use this against him when they compare him. They’re so close to a player that like why would you even give that one up? I just don’t like it.”
Interestingly, the two analysts who never had a career in the NBA – Michael Wilbon and Zach Lowe, applauded Embiid for his kind words and display of graciousness towards his rival.
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