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Washington Wizards head coach Scott Brooks offered high praise for Joel Embiid after the Philadelphia 76ers big man put up 36 points in just 28 minutes in Philly’s 132-103 Game 3 win Saturday.
“I was fortunate enough to play with [Hakeem] Olajuwon for three years,” Brooks told reporters. “[Embiid’s] doing things that I haven’t seen since then.”
Embiid will appreciate the comparison. In a 2018 article for The Players’ Tribune, he said he watched hours of an Olajuwon DVD to learn his moves and improve as a player when he first came to the United States:
“I had this DVD that my coach in Cameroon had mailed to me when I first came to America. It was an hour-long tape of Hakeem Olajuwon and some other legendary big men. I probably watched that DVD every single day for three years. I would study the way Hakeem moved, and I would go out and try to imitate him.
“I was basically just imagining that I was a good basketball player. The power of the mind is kind of amazing. I mean, I sucked. But somehow, I convinced myself that I was Hakeem. And I started getting better and better. And then I sort of started killing it.”
And in 2017, Olajuwon said he could see some of himself in Embiid’s game:
All Olajuwon did in his Hall of Fame career was average 21.8 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.1 blocks per game. He was a two-time champion, 12-time All-Star, a six-time first-team All-NBA selection, two-time Defensive Player of the Year and the 1993-94 MVP.
Embiid has a long way to go before he can say he had an Olajuwon-esque career. But after being an MVP finalist this season and leading the 76ers to the top seed in the Eastern Conference, he’s certainly on his way.
One thing is for certain: Washington doesn’t seem to have any answers for Embiid or the rest of the Sixers, with Philly holding a commanding 3-0 lead in the series. The Wizards will try to continue their season when they host Game 4 on Monday night at 7 p.m. ET (TNT).