NBA stars Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid let competitive spirits fly on court, express admiration for each other

Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant and Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid had some words for each other toward the end of their game on Thursday night in Brooklyn.

Embiid told Durant and the Nets to go back home after Philadelphia won 110-102 in a pivotal Eastern Conference matchup. Embiid was just returning the favor to Durant after the Nets beat the 76ers earlier this month.

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Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) gestures toward Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid after an NBA basketball game Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021, in New York. 76ers won 110-102.

Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) gestures toward Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid after an NBA basketball game Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021, in New York. 76ers won 110-102. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

While the two appeared to have some words on the court, cooler heads prevailed off it and both players showed their respect and admiration for each other after the game.

“That’s the best team in the conference. Obviously, I respect him a lot,” Embiid said of Durant, via ESPN. “I mean, judging by the way he was acting last time, that’s the same thing he told us. Basically, I returned the favor.”

Embiid added: “There’s a lot of respect. I always tell people, I think I can do everything on the basketball court, and there’s not a lot of guys that are able to do it. If there was one player that I think is probably as talented, or more talented, than me, it’s definitely him. So I have a lot of respect for him. I admire his game. We’re just competitive. And wins matter, every single one of them, and it’s always good to beat the best team in the conference.”

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) looks toward Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021, in New York. 76ers won 110-102.

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) looks toward Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant (7) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021, in New York. 76ers won 110-102. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

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Durant said he welcomed the competition.

“If you’ve been watching Joel and I play, it’s been like that every game — even the All-Star Game. We just respect each other so much that natural competitive fire, I guess, comes out. It’s the name of the game and letting them know we’re coming with the same energy. I like the energy that they played with tonight. You love competition; it’s only going to make you better.”

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid gestures toward Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant after the two exchanged words in the final minute of the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021, in New York. 76ers won 110-102.

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid gestures toward Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant after the two exchanged words in the final minute of the second half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Dec. 30, 2021, in New York. 76ers won 110-102. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

Embiid led Philadelphia with 34 points, seven rebounds and three steals. Tyrese Maxey added 25 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

Durant had 33 points with six rebounds and four assists on 13-of-24 shooting. James Harden also had 33 points with 14 rebounds and 10 assists.

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Brooklyn is still on top in the East with a 23-10 record. The 76ers are sixth moving to 19-16.

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