The 7 Biggest Winners From the Joel Embiid/Karl-Anthony Towns Fight, None of Whom Are Karl-Anthony Towns
Let’s be honest, we all love a good fight.
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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As the old saying goes, you don’t get to be the ‘90s Knicks without getting into a couple on-court brawls. David Stern probably got a couple acid flashbacks last night watching two of the league’s brightest young stars scrapping like a couple of middle schoolers at recess -- the kind of incident the league used to be fixated on terminating with extreme prejudice, but which now feels about as threatening to our cultural stability as a Spotify #TBT playlist. There’ll be suspensions, sure, and probably fines for enjoying the thing too much. But at the end of the day, all involved will likely look back at the brouhaha fondly.
Well, except for Karl-Anthony Towns. Not that he even lost the punch-up, necessarily -- it didn’t last long enough and nobody landed enough actual shots for there to be a true winner or loser -- but these things are all about narrative, and that’s one fight that Joel Embiid is certainly never going to lose. (Particularly because the Sixers in general and Embiid specifically have Big Brothered the Timberwolves for as long as the two have both been active in the NBA, a trend that continued with last night’s 18-point victory.) The best KAT can do now is to take the Adam Goldberg in Dazed and Confused strategy, and just hope that eventually the details of the bout fade away and the history books merely read, “They got into a fight.”
Everyone else is a winner from this one, though. Here are the seven biggest. (And shout out to my old boss Enrico Campitelli from The Artist Formerly Known as The 700 Level, who had a similar idea that I didn’t see until I had already started writing this. Happy Birthday Enrico!!)
7. The City of Philadelphia
At the risk of being too “Baltimore was the main character of The Wire” about all of this, obviously we’re all one of the major winners here. How many other sports towns even have enough of a recognizable personality that one of our 20-something athletes could make a cross-sports callback to a team from nearly half a century ago in order to properly chest-puff about representing for his home city? Not like we really needed anything else to properly bond JoJo to us forever after all we’ve already been through together, but if our long-term relationship needed a little bit of a spark to make things spicy again, we certainly got it last night.
6. Karl-Anthony Towns’ Mother
I mean, respect to her for almost making for an impromptu grudge match by nearly leaping out of her section to give Joel some on his way to the tunnel. (Embiid couldn’t help but give her a h/t in his Instagram comment.) Put Jacqueline Cruz in the proud pantheon of Put ‘Em Up Process Parents, along with Chukwudi Okafor, Shawn-Chapman McDaniels and Ebony Fultz, and give her honorary #FromHere status while we’re at it.
5. Jimmy Butler
Gone but not forgotten, and now that Embiid has continued Jimothy’s legacy of sonning Karl-Anthony Towns alive in Philadelphia, his imprint on this team is no doubt stronger than ever -- as evidenced, again, by JoJo @ing him in the Insta post. Maybe we’ll even give him a stud from one of our championship rings to make up for sweeping the Heat in the second round.
4. Ben Simmons
If there was ever any worry if Ben “The Peacemaker” Simmons was too cool to mix it up on his teammates’ behalf -- gotta look out for the primary moneymaker [points to beautiful, blemish-free face] -- it was put to bed last night, when Simmons instinctively leapt into the fray to protect his teammate, mostly from earning any more missed games than he already had. A heartening moment for sure, and one that ended with him putting Towns in a submission hold, which I’m sure the disorientingly large faction of WWE-obsessed Sixers Twitter won’t put to use for the rest of eternity.
3. Al Horford
We all have our role to play in these incidents, and in the case of Al Horford, that role was Eye-Rolling Supervisor Wondering How Long This Is Gonna Take Because He Just Wants to Get Home and Watch This Is Us on His DV-R Already. While the rest of the two teams were rushing into the fray, Al Horford was strolling leisurely, confident the fracas would still be ongoing by the time he gets there. Afterwards, while the rest of the Sixers were still LET’S GOOOOOing in the post-game, Big Al was tut-tutting the two scrappers for getting in the way of the good, clean fun of a traditional Philly-Minny beatdown. Seeing as how Al Horford will in fact be 58 years old at the end of his Sixers contract, this is all right and fair and good.
2. Mike Scott
If Al Horford was the disappointed father sternly lecturing his sons for getting high in the bathroom at a family event, Mike Scott was the black sheep uncle with the leather jacket and pierced ear, laughing his approval and asking if he can get a puff. Really, you could argue that The Ricky’s Own should be No. 1 on this list, since no one’s branding was more solidified last night than Scott’s, through his hype-manning of Embiid after the fact, his inability to keep a straight face while pretending to downplay how happy he was post-game, and by JoJo even invoking his four-word catchphrase as his own final statement post-game. No seventh man in my Sixers-watching lifetime has ever put this much of his thumbprint on the team’s identity.
1. Joel Embiid
I mean, what more does the guy need to do? Show up to the next Sixers-Wolves game in Rocky trunks while eating a cheesesteak and singing “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)”? ‘Coz he’ll do it.