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#pounditTuesday, May 11, 2021

Joel Embiid grateful for Shaq’s criticism of him

Joel Embiid

Shaquille O’Neal now has another player to whom he can say, “you’re welcome.”

Philadelphia 76ers star center Joel Embiid spoke this week with Shams Charania of The Athletic. During the interview, Embiid credited O’Neal’s criticism for providing him with motivation.

“When all those guys, Shaq, Charles [Barkley], they just kept talking about how dominant I could be, I understood,” said Embiid. “They saw the talent. They saw what I could really do. But I wasn’t using it. I wasn’t doing it. So when they were criticizing me, I just saw it as a way to kinda open my eyes and actually be better.

“So instead of using it as criticism, I just took it to want to be better,” added Embiid. “So when I look back, when that was going on, I have nothing but love for Shaq. Because whatever they were saying, it just opened my eyes to actually realize that I can be that guy.”

The 27-year-old also said that he has “no doubt” that he should be the NBA MVP this season.

O’Neal has been on Embiid’s case for a couple of years now (like this). Shaq also tends to be especially tough on big men in today’s game. But Embiid is currently having his best NBA season yet, averaging career-highs with 30.1 points per game on 51.5 percent from the field and 38.7 percent from deep. The Sixers also have the best record in the Eastern Conference at 39-19.

Sometimes, O’Neal’s words can border on unnecessarily petty. But Embiid is at least one example of a player whom the criticisms have worked on.

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