Andrew Unterberger is a famous writer who invented the nickname 'Sauce Castillo' and is now writing for The Rights To Ricky Sanchez, as part of the 'If Not, Pick Will Convey As Two Second-Rounders' section of the site. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AUGetoffmygold and can also read him at Billboard.
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Don’t ever trust anything a sportswriter tells you they were 100 percent sure about, unless that thing is that they were 100 percent sure that Joel Embiid was going to be great.
Personally, I have rarely put my entire weight into a prediction since I inaccurately prophesied that Space Monkeys’ “Sugar Cane” was gonna be the biggest song of 1997. But I was so sure that Joel Embiid was going to be great that I don’t even remember wondering if anyone would consider it controversial when I declared that upon his NBA arrival in 2014, “All anyone will have to do is see Embiid play for a quarter to tell that he's already placed out of this rookie class like it was high school AP Chemistry.” Of course I wasn’t sure that he’d be healthy, ever -- and I wasn’t sure I’d ever believe him even if he said he was -- but I knew that he’d be great. What was the alternative, anyway? Him not being great? Please.
Of course, his first-ballot induction into the Rights to Ricky Sanchez Process Hall of Fame is about a lot more than his greatness -- particularly his on-court greatness. It’s about him riding and dying with Sam Hinkie, the guy who’s name we’ll put on the building someday. It’s about him tagging Milwaukee “shithole” and him treating Hassan Whiteside and Andre Drummond like Twitter eggs. It’s about him courting and then shunning Rihanna, or maybe it wasn’t Rihanna, or lol how many articles have we written about this non-story already anyway? It’s about him even knowing that Retweet Armageddon was a thing that was happening in the universe, let alone deigning to actively participate. It’s about him so obviously being one of us that he tattooed it on his own name and got Matt Cord to bellow it at a couple thousand decibels every night. It’s about Joel Embiid being The Process, in all ways, always.
There was never any doubt that he’d be the first player inducted. Coming up with reasons why it should be another Process Sixer is like trying to make the case for why a player besides LeBron James should be considered the best of the last 15 years. Yes, Dwyane Wade has as many championships, yes, Kevin Durant is as good a shooter, yes, Kawhi Leonard is as good a defender, yes, Russell Westbrook is as big of a triple-double threat, and yes, Giannis Antetokounmpo is (maybe?) as much of an athletic freak. But only one guy does all of those things and has forever, and that’s LeBron James. He’s the guy.
So is JoJo. Yes, Tony Wroten is inextricable to Process lore, yes, T.J. McConnell is involved in nearly all of our finest Process on-court memories, yes Robert Covington is the guy Process Trusters will always have to defend as strenuously as he defends a stretch four beyond the three point line, yes Ish Smith is hilariously representative of the sliver of light that reminded us how dark the rest of our Process world truly was at the time, yes Hollis Thompson is Hollis Thompson. But Joel Embiid is the only one who is all of those things, and so very much more. Joel Embiid is also Hollis Thompson. Hollis Thompson is only just Hollis Thompson.
In the Requiem for the Big East ESPN 30 for 30, Michael Wilbon argued that the importance of early ‘80s Syracuse guard Dwayne “Pearl” Washington was so significant to Big East basketball history that when the story of the conference was written, his name demanded to be included in the very first sentence. That, of course, is patently absurd: sentences aren’t that long, really. Joel Embiid’s name doesn’t have to be in the first sentence of the Story of the Process. But his name and Sam Hinkie’s name are the only names that absolutely have to be in the first chapter. Otherwise, you’re just reading the wrong book.
We’ve all wondered about the time when we’ll start taking Joel Embiid for granted. Perhaps for some of us it’s already begun: “How did he throw that ball away at the end of regulation in Game Three?” “Is he really never gonna play 65 games in a season?” “Who really searches for ‘WHITE PEOPLE SHOOTING THREE POINTERS’ on YouTube anyway?” We say we’ll never get there, but to some extent, we all probably will. No love story has a first kiss that lasts forever. No meal tastes so delicious that you don’t eventually start wondering what the vendor next door is selling. Eventually, we find flaws, we neglect history, we fear for the future. We forget how lucky we truly are.
And that, friends, is why we have Hall of Fames. They remember so we don’t have to. They tell the truth that we decide on when the facts are clear and incontrovertible so they don’t get confuzzled by the impermanence of memory and the swaying tides of emotion. And so, let the record show that when the inaugural class of the Process Hall of Fame (of three, lol) was decided upon, Joel Hans “The Process” Embiid was the Sixers representative selected by an overwhelming margin, and all who come after can simply come after. Actually, that was probably something we could’ve been 100 percent sure about, too.