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How tall is Joel Embiid: A Billy Penn Investigation

Joel Embiid is very tall. For months, whenever we would write about Embiid and how very tall he is, we would reference him as ‘the 7’2″ center’ or ‘the 7’2″ big man’ or ‘the 7’2″ answer to all our problems who will become the greatest player in Sixers history.’ Adulation aside, the one consistent was his height: 7’2″.

Only, we were wrong. Sort of. Maybe. Or probably not.

During pregame introductions at the Wells Fargo Center, public address announcer Matt Cord has been announcing Embiid as “the 7’2” center from Kansas.” He also added a wonderful nickname that the entire city hopes sticks and doesn’t become a derisive term at some point in the near future.

Trust the Process. Nobody is questioning that. But it is worth questioning the 7’2″ part. On all official NBA documentation, Embiid is listed at 7’0″. Look, here’s his page from the Sixers roster, via NBA.com:

embiid-bio
NBA.com

For what it’s worth, ESPN.com’s roster also lists Embiid at 7’0″. CBS Sports has that too. His bio in the 2015-16 media guide (pages 54 and 55) listed him at 7’0″. The year before, his actual rookie year? The same, 7’0″.

His Wikipedia page, which is pretty much never wrong, has him listed as 7’0″ (2.13 meters) as well.

So how did we get from 7’0″ to 7’2″? I asked Embiid, but haven’t gotten a response yet.

I also asked the Sixers, but at the time of publication have not gotten a reply to this growing issue.

Height is relative

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Embiid was, while at Kansas, a legit seven feet tall, and all of his pre-draft vitals indicated as much. Often players in college have their heights, shall-we-say, rounded up to make them seem taller than they actually are. In previous days working on publications in a college athletic department, we employed every trick in the ‘make him taller’ book, from measuring a player with his shoes on to add an inch or two to just flat-out making up a guy’s height without even measuring him. ‘He came in at 6’7″ and he’s obviously taller now that he’s a junior so let’s list him at 6’9″ this year.’

Rarely do players round down. It does happen, though. In May the Wall Street Journal did a story on NBA player heights that spoke about Kevin Durant’s penchant for saying he’s shorter than he really is.

NBA game programs across the country are littered with inaccuracies when it comes to player height. The widespread misrepresentations highlight a funny thing about the NBA: Its players, despite being taller than most of the other 2.7 billion men on earth, lie about their height like everyone else.

Durant’s case is particularly odd, though, since he stretched the truth to make himself shorter. Durant, whose team is tied 1-1 with the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference semifinals, said he often lies about his height depending on whom he’s speaking with.

“For me, when I’m talking to women, I’m 7 feet,” he said. “In basketball circles, I’m 6-9.”

Durant’s logic is that seven-footers in the NBA are seen as centers or low-post power forwards, tasked with guarding the other team’s big, lumbering lane cloggers and rim protectors. Durant is a quintessential wing player, better in space and shooting from the outside, a position that traditionally caps at 6’9″. That’s how tall Durant was as a freshman at Texas, but his draft profile had him listed at 6’10”. On this year’s Golden State Warriors roster, he’s 6’9“.

Usually, though, it works the other way around. Charles Barkley was listed at 6’6″ during his career but it was long believed during his playing days he was probably somewhere closer to 6’4”. Power forwards were never as short as Barkley, so things just got creative to make him seem taller, without it getting ridiculous.

But unlike Barkley, Embiid actually is tall. Really tall. And unlike Durant, Embiid is a center, where size still matters, so listing a guy who may be 7’2″ at 7’2″ and not 7’0″ would make actual, believable sense.

Embiid’s 7’2″ story

NBA: Preseason-Philadelphia 76ers at Miami Heat
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It would be one thing if Embiid’s height was something of a Philly fish tale, gaining an inch for every season he was sidelined. But Cord announces him at 7’2″, so it’s real. That’s how tall he is, even if all the documentation around the league indicates otherwise.

Well, not all the documentation. An October 4, 2016 story on NBA.com talks about Embiid being 7’2″.

Any encouraging signs from the No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft would be big news for the 76ers, but especially in the days after the setback of learning Ben Simmons, the top choice in 2016, is out indefinitely following foot surgery. Based on his progress in one season at Kansas, Embiid could potentially have that much impact at 7’2″.

The 7’2″ story goes back farther than that, though. Last December, Sixers beat writer Keith Pompey tweeted that the team measured Embiid and he was 7’2″. Almost a year ago.

This doesn’t make any sense! It’s been almost a year! And that’s not even the beginning of the 7’2″ story, either.

Back in June of 2015, head coach Brett Brown told 97.5 The Fantatic hosts Anthony Gargano and Jon Marks that Embiid was taller than his listed 7’0″ height. Via FoxSports.com:

“I get a text from Joel a few weeks ago in the middle of the night that said: ‘Guess how tall I am.’ And so I guessed seven-foot. Two minutes later he texts back ‘You’re wrong, I’m 7’2″.’ I text back ‘How do you know this?’ He texts back ‘Doctors. I’m 7’2″ in sandals.’ And when you stand next to him, when you’re around big men you understand the difference between seven-foot and seven-two, and he is 7’2″.”

The long and short of it

 

Union defender Ray Gaddis is listed at 5-7.

Union defender Ray Gaddis is listed at 5-7.

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

There is a difference between 7’0″ and 7’2″, and it’s somehow more than two inches. If you’ve ever been around a seven-footer you know how tall that is, but if you’ve had the chance to stand next to someone taller than seven feet, even just by an inch or two, they seem a mile high in the air.

Embiid seems a mile high in the air.

Nerlens Noel is listed on the Sixers roster at 6’11”, now go ahead and tell me with a straight face Emiid is just one inch taller than him.

This photo is from March 2015. Embiid said he has grown since then.

This photo is from March 2015. Embiid said he has grown since then.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time the Sixers and the NBA do right by the big man and update his height to what he is now, not what he was when he came into the league. Is that 7’2″, like they announce at home games?

Whoa. This story is big. And it’s getting bigger.

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