Joel Embiid is a gift to the game of basketball, a guy who is one of the best players in the NBA and a real chance to be named the league’s MVP this year. He is an unstoppable force on the court, so it may not surprise you too much to know he’s just as relentless off it as well. Even when he’s playing video games. Against little kids.
A story on The Athletic by Jayson Jenks, Rich Hofmann and Rustin Dodd was published today, and it’s focused on stories about Embiid told by those who have been closest to him during his time in the NBA: his coaches, teammates and trainers.
There’s a lot of interesting stuff there about what makes him such a fierce competitor, stories of the work he’s put in to overcome injury and the fact he picked up the sport so late in life (Embiid didn’t start playing basketball in his native Cameroon until he was 16).
But whatever, you can read about stuff like that all the time on a sports website, I’m here today to share the very funny video games-related story. Two of the people interviewed for the piece were Billy Lange, an assistant at the Sixers from 2013-2019, and his wife Alicia, who remember inviting Embiid over for a meal one night, and the dude turned up with a backpack ready to go:
Billy Lange, 76ers assistant coach: My wife, Alicia, and I have four sons. He takes a car service, he comes over and Alicia cooks for him. He has this backpack with him. He says to my boys, “You guys want to play video games?” Of course, they’re going to say yes. And he takes out his PlayStation.
Alicia Lange: He put it literally on the main TV in my house. He wanted everyone to watch how bad he beat them.
Billy Lange: When I say he pummeled my kids, there was no mercy. I think he won a Madden game, 98-6.
Alicia Lange: At the time, my kids were 7, 9 and 10.
Marc Lange, Billy’s and Alicia’s son: Every time he’d get a turnover he’d say something to me, right to my face. One time he left to go to the bathroom and I got a safety with his controller and he was mad.
Alicia Lange: No mercy.
Billy Lange: Then he goes to play (NBA) 2K, which has all these angles and my kids have always played on the angle like you’re watching the game on television. But Joel plays from the baseline angle. He was beating them by like 200 points. He was unrelenting and he was talking smack. “Can’t guard me. You can’t get a stop.” All of it. Just giggling. Unbelievable. While my wife is cooking for him.
Alicia Lane: He killed them and laughed the entire time. He wiped every kid off the game.
Thank you to everyone involved for reminding me of one of my favourite tweets of all time: