People usually collectively hold their breath when Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid falls to the ground. It seems to happen quite a bit, and over the course of NBA history many players have tried to actually stop the amount of times they hit the floor.
When Damian Lillard was a rookie, he kept crashing into the fans sitting on the baseline so much I was worried about his overall ability to stay healthy. That eventually got curbed by training and the coaching staff, and now Lillard doesn’t find the hardwood so much.
But apparently Embiid is actually trying to hit the floor.
According to a great feature by ESPN’s Chris Herring, Embiid found out that it was better for him to hit the floor and spread the impact out over his entire body rather than try to catch himself and potentially injure one of his lower extremities.
At the team’s practice facility in Camden, New Jersey, just seconds before he vanishes from sight to take a post-workout shower, Embiid smiles when asked about his frequent falls. “It was something I learned during my rehab when I was going through the foot injury, when I was trying to find ways to limit the impact on my body in 2014,” he says. “I was told that every time I feel like I’m in a situation where it’s going to be some type of extreme [weight] on my leg, I’ve got to dive or just roll onto the floor. So that’s why I do it.”
“I know there are fans that are always thinking, ‘No!’ each time I fall, but that’s why I do it,” Embiid says with a brief grin before heading for the showers. “The specialists for my foot told me to do it.”
This seems pretty reasonable from a science perspective, and like a lot of things in the NBA these days the right choice actually appears counterintuitive to your naked eye (and your common sense).
The Sixers bet big on Embiid in 2017 by giving him a massive 5-year, $147.7 million contract. Tantamount to Philadelphia success is Embiid’s health, and it looks like he and his doctors have a plan for that moving forward.