Call it Joel Embiid’s Walter Cronkite moment.
During the Vietnam War, America’s most trusted anchorman, Walter Cronkite, returned from a visit to Vietnam convinced the war was unwinnable. That killed President Lyndon B. Johnson’s optimistic forecasts, leading to his decision to not seek re-election.
In today’s edition of the Inquirer, Sixers forward Joel Embiid lost the support of veteran Daily News (and later Inquirer) sports writer Marcus Hayes.
It may not be fatal, but it sure is a conversation changer.
The Sixers have a loyal fan base, but this is Philadelphia, and when you fail to leave blood on the court, and you lose because of a (lack of) heart attack, you will be booed.
And the Sixers were.
And they earned it.
And 7-foot-2 center Embiid didn’t like it.
Instead of letting outstanding play speak for him, after a good basket he offered a shushing gesture to fans.
These are the fans who had been more than patient with their injury-prone All Star. Chill and trust the Process, fans were told.
This season the Sixers play like champs at home and like chumps on the road. Is it lack of focus, lack of desire, lack of will being poured into them by coach Brett Brown, whose alibis for his team sound increasingly ridiculous.
But no more so than Embiid quoting Batman: “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”
“Embiid’s world-weary pose is as phony as the rest of his act,” wrote Hayes.
“This is who Embiid is,” Hayes continued. “It is who he has always been: a mercenary millionaire temporarily translated to Philadelphia to maximize his revenue stream.”
Hayes’ dissection continued: “Remember those tears wept in the tunnel in Toronto last spring after the four-bounce, Game 7 playoff exit? They’ve been analyzed, and determined to be Cameroonian crocodile.”
Don’t hold back, Marcus.
“He is also an undisciplined, out-of-shape, non-leader, untouchable and uncoachable,” said Hayes, but adding he should not be booed.
What? He’s a $140-million malinger and he should not be booed? Marcus is from out of town, but he has been here long enough to understand booing. It is the flip side of cheering. Telling fans not to boo is like telling readers not to comment after stories.
Shaq called out Embiid for “playing soft” and Barkley said No. 21 did not play hard enough.
Embiid seemed to have gotten the message, but soon returned to his lackadaisical ways.
He has lost Marcus Hayes, the fans, Barkley and Shaq.
How much longer will he be a Sixer?
And how much do we care?