With support from WWE’s resident good-time guys, Joel Embiid has channeled his inner wrestler and learned to Thrust the Process.
As the Philadelphia crowd roared, the 76ers’ NBA MVP candidate mimicked a crude Degeneration X chop after he was fouled in a Game 2 victory over Washington. Embiid has long expressed his wrestling fandom and members of the Hall of Fame wrestling stable have noticed. “The Heartbreak Kid” Shawn Michaels and Triple H -- best known these days as WWE executive Paul Levesque -- tweeted their shoutouts of the honorary DX member.
”…and if you’re not down with that!!!!” Michaels tweeted.
Wrestling fans know the rest of that catchphrase.
“I mentioned that in the past, DX is my favorite. Triple H and Shawn Michaels were my favorite wrestlers,” Embiid said after he scored 22 points against the Wizards. “Obviously, the group was also my favorite, and that’s what they used to do. When the refs called the and-1, it just makes sense to combine the both of them and just enjoy myself.”
At 7 feet, Embiid truly might be DX’s biggest fan.
Levesque, WWE EVP of global talent strategy and development, said Embiid had “excellent” form when he chopped and thrusted on his back.
“We might have to make a trip there. I’ll have Shawn give him some tips,” Levesque said by phone Friday.
Embiid might break out the move again when the Sixers take a 2-0 series lead into Game 3 Saturday in Washington.
“It’s flattering in a way to have that as part of your legacy,” Levesque said.
Embiid can complete the full transformation into WWE star with a championship belt around his waist should he lead the Sixers to the NBA title. WWE has traditionally awarded custom belts to NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, the Premier League and other major sports champions. LeBron James has worn T-shirts saluting wrestlers “Stone Cold” Steve Austin and the Undertaker to practice and games. Grammy-winner Bad Bunny referenced the same two stars in his song “Booker T” (another WWE Hall of Famer) and later wrestled and won a tag-team match at this year’s WrestleMania.
Rob Gronkowski was shirtless when he raised a WWE New England Patriots belt over his head during a Super Bowl parade.
“When you think about now, guys like Joel or Gronk, they were either younger kids growing up where it was really influential to them at that time,” Levesque said. “The whole world was watching it and everybody was interacting with them. It just stayed with them.”
Who knows, Embiid might be able to recruit DX -- formed in 1997 during WWE’s Attitude Era - to ring the ceremonial bell that starts Sixers games.
The irreverent Philadelphia-based sports blog Crossing Broad got in on the fun and listed its Mount Rushmore of DX matches in honor of Embiid’s cross-armed chop.
“I had no idea at the time we were ruining so many generations,” Levesque said, laughing. “I think it’s really cool it’s lasted so long. I think in some ways we’re the superhero version of athletes. The crazy, over-the-top version of what they wish they could be sometimes.”
Embiid walked out to the Triple H’s theme music, “The Game,” by Motorhead for a 2017 game, cocked his head back and spewed water into the air. Embiid stuffed his cheeks with water and too much spilled down his chin. Triple H noticed Embiid used his signature move and tweeted, “Still have to perfect the water-to-spit ratio...Not bad for a first attempt.”
“I kind of messed up at the end,” Embiid said in 2017. “That was the first time I did it.”
But certainly not the last time he tried to emulate his wrestling heroes.
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