What we learned on Thursday, as the Bucks beat the Sixers, 128-122, was that Giannis Antetokounmpo has words for Ben Simmons, that Eric Bledsoe has hands for Joel Embiid, and that A Beef Was Born. Well, a beef had been there all along, we just needed to open our eyes and see it. Like Lady Gaga once said, “There can be 100 people in a room and 99 of them don’t want to fight you, but all it takes is one and it just changes your whole life.” Well, she said something like that.
Here is the evidence that the Bucks are, in fact, beefing with the Sixers:
Exhibit A: History
March 17 was the last time the Bucks played the Sixers. Unrelated: March 17 was St. Patrick’s Day. Related: March 17 was the last time Simmons knew adulthood. Why? Let’s start with this: I can’t blame a guy for not wanting to defend Giannis when the presumptive MVP has his back to the basket. There’s too much footage of what happens when he decides to turn. But if you’re the only defender in sight, you’ve already committed, you’re in a stance, and one hand is in the air and the other is on his back, you’ve got to see it through. Simmons just put his hands down. And thus, Ben Simmons became Ben Button.
Giannis Simmons and yells “He’s a baby” 52 points 16 rebounds 7 assist pic.twitter.com/h1QZPpxWwE— BballCrazy® (@BballCrazy) March 17, 2019
Notice what Giannis yells at the end: “He’s a fucking baby.” Now, Simmons is not:
- less than 2 years old, the technical age for when a baby becomes a toddler
- Giannis’s baby; Simmons is dating Sixers fan and noted early-aughts-hair-aficionado Kendall Jenner
- a fan of the Korean boy band “B.A.P,” who, like Beyoncé does with the Beehive, refer to their fan base as BABY (at least, we don’t think he is, which is a shame because Google tells me “Wake Me Up” should’ve been the song of the summer)
One embarrassing moment doesn’t mean Simmons is shook. He even dunked on Giannis afterward. But two—Simmons finished this game with six points on five shots—sorta kinda does.
Exhibit B: The Embiid Tapes
Want to know how to tell that someone isn’t impressed with you? They may say these words: good for you. No one says “good for you” unsarcastically except moms, who are contractually obligated to be supportive. “Good for you” is basically “What do you want, a cookie?” without the dessert imagery. That person does not, in fact, think whatever you just said or did is good.
With that in mind, here’s Giannis talking about Embiid, the NBA’s self-proclaimed most unstoppable player, before the game:
”If he believes he’s the most unstoppable player in the NBA that’s good for him. Obviously, he’s a really, really good player. He’s hard to guard, he’s a hard player to guard. I think, like, other people should say that about you; you don’t say that about yourself.”
Giannis must not be all that familiar with Embiid, who speaks for himself, speaks for others, and speaks often. In comparison, Giannis prefers to let his work do the talking:
And here’s your MVP campaign poster pic.twitter.com/UurMN0mohr— sam esfandiari (@samesfandiari) April 5, 2019
A picture says a thousand words; this one says “fuck you” 500 times. Of Giannis’s five blocks, four were against Embiid. (Embiid finished with three, and one against Giannis.)
Exhibit C: Analytics!
If ghosts are real, then the ghost of Wilt Chamberlain is probably still mad about the way his time with Philly ended. And maybe Wilt’s ghost would come down for a couple of nights to embody Giannis whenever he plays the Sixers, because it’d be the least-obvious ghost embodiment from past player to current player. People would know something was up if Eric Bledsoe suddenly tried to finger roll from five feet away from the basket, but Wilt could operate in Giannis’s body.
To be honest, a specter set on revenge is easier to process than what Giannis is doing against Philly. Over the past two games against the Sixers, he’s averaged an unreal 49 points on 24 shots, 14.5 rebounds, 6.5 assists, three blocks, and only 0.5 turnovers. (I’m also not sure how it works to split statlines with a ghost. Maybe it’s like splitting a tackle in football? Maybe Wilt gets some win shares?)
Exhibit D: Outside Influences
Immediately after Giannis hit a 3, which might’ve upset Embiid, a 30.4 percent 3-point shooter who still insists on shooting too many 3s, Bledsoe pushed Embiid:
Tensions are flaring early!— NBC Sports Philadelphia (@NBCSPhilly) April 5, 2019
Bledsoe is ejected for this tussle with Embiid. pic.twitter.com/4aSkElWhCz
Embiid wasn’t fazed. He threw the ball to Bledsoe, who LAUNCHED it back with the power of a lifetime of short-man fury. You can see Giannis on the other end putting his hands up in surprise, because what could possibly be going on between Embiid and Bledsoe, neither of whom has a history of confrontation?
There’s some shoving, some separating, some OOOHHHING from the crowd, and at the end of it, Bledsoe is ejected. I can’t prove that he did this for Giannis, but you can’t prove that he didn’t. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.
Embiid could talk trash to a candle, but the fact it’s Giannis initiating most of these makes the case. Of course this is a rivalry. Don’t be misled by the fact there hasn’t been a funeral game yet. The Sixers and Bucks will catch on. If we’re lucky, they’ll have a seven-game series in which to do so.