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Joel Embiid relishing villain role amid Knicks fans' 'F— Embiid' chants

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Joel Embiid is settling into a role many NBA stars have occupied before him: public enemy No. 1 of Knicks fans.

Embiid was jeered frequently throughout the 76ers’ 112-106 Game 5 upset of the Knicks. He fought through several maladies — including a lingering knee injury and a migraine from earlier in the morning — and posted a triple-double to help Philadelphia stave off elimination.

Embiid accomplished all of that while facing “F— Embiid!” chants from the crowd on hand at Madison Square Garden, and seemed completely unbothered by becoming the target of Knicks fans hungry for a series win.

“It’s not hostile,” Embiid said when asked about his reception. “I love New York.”

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Embiid went on to detail that New York is his “favorite city in the world” and that he has had a place in the city for five years.

As such, Embiid knows exactly how New York fans operate.

“They’re always going to pick their guy, and they seemed to have picked me,” he explained. “If I’ve got to be the punching bag and you hear a lot of ‘F Embiid,’ that’s OK. I love it.”

Of course, Embiid hasn’t done much to endear himself to the New York crowd during this series. Notably, they were upset when Embiid hit Knicks star Jalen Brunson in the head while trying to knock the ball out of the point guard’s hands.

That resulted in hearty boos being rained down upon the Sixers center and earned him a social media insult from rapper and Knicks superfan Fat Joe. 

“My fist stinks a little because Joel Embiid just walked by and gave me a dap,” Fat Joe said. “My s— smells a little. It smells dirty.”

Unsurprisingly, Embiid uses those chants and insults as motivation. And he has no problem with them so long as fans don’t cross the line.

“It usually gets me going in those situations, because you want to put yourself in those situations and kind of shut them up,” he said. “But as long as you keep it basketball, they’ve been doing a great job just supporting their team. They’ve been amazing. They’re the Knicks. They get hyped about everything, and they’ve been doing a fantastic job.”

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Embiid’s comments differ greatly from what he said about 76ers fans’ “disappointing” showing in Games 3 and 4.

“I love our fans,” Embiid told reporters. “Think it’s unfortunate and I’m not calling them out, but it is disappointing. Obviously you got a lot of Knicks fans and they’re down the road and I’ve never seen it, and I’ve been here for 10 years.

“Yeah, it kind of pisses me off, especially because Philly is considered a sports town. They’ve always shown up and I don’t think that should happen. Yeah. It’s not okay.”

It will be interesting to see how Philly fans react to Embiid’s message ahead of Game 6. The 76ers need to win at home to force a Game 7. Otherwise, the Knicks will be moving on to the second round of the NBA Playoffs.

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