On the anniversary of Kobe Bryant’s 81-point game, Joel Embiid took center stage and eclipsed one of the many NBA scoring records held by Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain.
Embiid scored 70 points in just 37 minutes on the court to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 133-123 victory over the San Antonio Spurs. It was the most points scored in a single game by a Sixer since Chamberlain scored 68 points on Dec. 16, 1967. Embiid, who also grabbed a personal-best 18 rebounds, made 24 of 41 field goals and 21 of 23 free throws. The reigning NBA MVP outdueled much-hyped Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama, who scored 33 points in 29 minutes.
“My mindset is to attack, dominate offensively and defensively, so tonight was no different,” Embiid said after the game on the local TV broadcast. The Sixers center was surprised to hear afterwards that Wilt “The Stilt” never had a 65-point, 15-rebound, 5-assist game in his Sixers career.
“Wilt never never did this? I don’t believe that,” Embiid said with a smile. “Some of those world records, you know, we still gotta see. I’m sure Wilt has done it at some point.”
Embiid’s reaction to accomplishing something Chamberlain never did is a testament to the great career of the man they called The Big Dipper. The NBA record book begins and ends with Chamberlain. He still holds the single-game record with 100 points, a record that may never be touched. Wilt was playing for the Philadelphia Warriors when he set the mark. Kobe’s 81 points is the second-highest scoring game.
Prior to Embiid’s 70-point game, Chamberlain held three of the four best single-game scoring marks in 76ers history. Allen Iverson is only other Sixer besides Embiid and Chamberlain to score over 60 points. Iverson scored 62 in 2005.
Embiid had tied his career high of 59 points through three quarters and re-entered the contest with 6:38 left and Philadelphia ahead 118-104. With the record in sight, the 76ers were feeding him the ball at every opportunity.
“Obviously he can score in so many ways, just his sheer size gets him a lot of stuff around the basket, gets him a lot of free throws,” 76ers coach Nick Nurse said. “The shooting touch is the skill part. The way he moves, the skill he has, the size he is, and he gets motivated like that, anything can happen I guess.”
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich joked before the game that the Spurs’ plan against Embiid was to “hammer” him. “I told Wemby to back him down over the rim and just throw him through the rim,” Popovich playfully told reporters.
But it was Embiid who backed down the young Frenchman to the hoop early and often. He had hit going early with 24 points on 8-for-12 shooting in the first quarter. Once Embiid got rolling, there was no stopping the big man.