The Los Angeles Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers faced off at the end of January. Though the game was interesting due to it being a showdown between the best team in the West and the best team in the East, the thing it’s most remembered for is one particularly unnecessary foul.
With just under six minutes to go in the third quarter, Philly big man Joel Embiid got the ball down low and prepared to go for an easy jam. As he went up, Lakers star LeBron James gave him a hard foul that some have even taken to calling “dirty.”
Joel Embiid was visibly in pain and went down hard on his back after being fouled.
LeBron was called for a flagrant 1 and Embiid stayed in the game. pic.twitter.com/LSOVsgVy5f
— ESPN (@espn) January 28, 2021
Three weeks later, the ramifications from that particular sequence continue to loom large.
“That’s when it started,” Embiid said following Wednesday’s game against the Houston Rockets, in regards to when his back issues really began.
After a reporter pressed the Sixers big man on how much it was bothering him, Embiid tried to play it off.
“It was pretty tight,” he acknowledged. “I just wanted to make sure we got the win. That’s all that matters.”
Embiid was emphatic about not using his lingering back issues as any sort of excuse.
“It’s not alarming,” he continued. “You know, it’s just tightness. Some days it’s tighter than usual — some days, it’s not. In Utah, or even after the Suns game, it got more tighter than usual, and today, especially when we started the game, it was tighter than usual.”
Jeanie Buss shoots her shot with the GOAT.https://t.co/Nmu4oJAf7w
— Game 7 (@game7__) February 17, 2021
Still, it’s hard to ignore the facts here.
James committed a foul on Embiid that he’s still feeling the effects of nearly a month later – yet there was no substantive punishment handed out.
Jonas Valanciunas literally fractured a guy’s wrist for no reason – yet no punishment was handed out.
At a certain point, you’d think the NBA would want to restore some integrity to the game.
Klay knows how to do Valentine’s Day right. https://t.co/Gxt1gRLTX2
— Game 7 (@game7__) February 15, 2021
You already have a situation where refs (seemingly) blatantly help the Lakers win games, rob the Chicago Bulls of victories and are so careless in protecting certain players that one of the biggest stars in the league literally had to call them out for it.
At a certain point, once fans lose enough faith in the way basketball is policed, the NBA will not be able to do anything to get it back. The league would be wise to address this situation and take a more proactive approach in the future, else the consequences to the game’s reputation will be extremely dire.