During the resumption of the 2019-20 season, there were many prominent figures around the league who felt uneasy about entering the bubble-like atmosphere for the duration of the regular season and the playoffs. Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid was one of those players, and the Sixers center made it known that he wasn’t a fan of restarting the season amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Embiid had an especially good reason, even besides the questions he had about his own long-term health.
As told by ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, Embiid and his girlfriend Anne de Paula were expecting the birth of their first child together, which surely made the decision far more complicated. Embiid explained the situation like so:
“We tried to keep it a secret,” Embiid said. “Because people have bad intentions and bad energy. … So it was very hard for me to go. I just wanted to be there with her and for him. I only went (to Orlando) because I really thought we had a chance to win.”
As stated, Embiid ultimately decided to go because he thought the Sixers could compete. He turned heads when he showed up to the season restart in a full hazmat suit amid the COVID-19 pandemic:
Joel Embiid has arrived for the flight to Orlando, in full mask, suit and glove gear. pic.twitter.com/Nz7hOtc69E
— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) July 9, 2020
Embiid held private conversations with Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, who was also opposed to the idea of the bubble-like environment to resume playing. For the Sixers star, wearing the hazmat suit was a form of protest.
While the league office was able to save the 2019-20 season with this bubble atmosphere, another bubble for the 2020-21 campaign wasn’t in the cards. So, right now, the NBA is trying to navigate its way through another season during the pandemic.
Embiid and the Sixers are off to a 3-1 start this season.