Top 10 Orlando Magic games of the 2022 season
8. Joel Embiid vs. Mo Bamba — at Philadelphia 76ers (Jan. 19)
Mo Bamba and Joel Embiid have a relationship beyond just simply being in the NBA. They were connected before Mo Bamba’s rookie season by their shared trainer Drew Hanlen (his client list of superstars is quite extensive, including Jayson Tatum).
There were plenty of videos in Bamba’s early career of him working out with the current MVP candidate. The two went at it with the veteran Embiid giving Bamba some welcome to the NBA moments during a preseason matchup his rookie year.
Bamba has struggled to find his footing though.
An injury his rookie year, the sudden surge into playoff contention for the team and a bout with COVID slowed down much of Bamba’s development. It got to his critical fourth season with Bamba still seeking consistency.
The rebuilding Magic gave Bamba his best opportunity. He averaged a career-high in points (10.6 per game), rebounding (8.1 per game), blocks (1.7 per game) and minutes (25.7 per game). He took advantage of the opportunity given to him this season.
No game seemed to show just how far Bamba had come in his rookie season than this January matchup with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Bamba scored 32 points and made seven of his eight 3-pointers. He went toe to toe with Embiid for at least a half and kept the Magic in the game with his ability to space the floor. To his credit too, he added three blocks.
Bamba was the force that everyone envisioned when the Magic took him with the sixth pick in the draft back in 2018.
Of course, the real star of this game was Embiid. And it was clear exiting this game just how far Bamba still had to go.
Embiid scored 50 points in 27 minutes, making 17 of 23 shots. He powered the Sixers through the third quarter as Bamba started to slow down. Embiid made a strong MVP case — as he did for a lot of the season — in this game in perhaps his best individual game.
That is not something the Magic would like to remember. But at least for a half, it felt like there was a battle between two strong big men for the future. That part was at least worth remembering.