- Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin spoke to Business Insider about his team’s wild season.
- Rubin said newly acquired superstar Jimmy Butler has changed the organization on and off the court and has been more impressive than they thought.
- Rubin spoke about Joel Embiid’s larger-than-life personality, including a harrowing tale of forcing Embiid down a waterslide.
- Rubin also called the fan petition to ban Kendall Jenner, who is dating Ben Simmons, from Sixers games “ridiculous.”
It’s been a momentous year for the Philadelphia 76ers, and the season isn’t even halfway through.
After a sluggish start, the team pulled off a blockbuster trade for All-Star guard/forward Jimmy Butler, pairing him with fellow superstars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The team has since won eight of ten games and appears to be among the contenders in the Eastern Conference.
Conversely, the team has also dealt with the extended Markelle Fultz saga. The 2017 No. 1 pick has once again dealt with shooting issues, with his agent announcing that Fultz would be seeing specialists to diagnose issues in his shoulders. On Tuesday, it was reported that Fultz has a nerve issue that will force him to him miss three to six weeks while he rehabs.
After speaking at Business Insider’s IGNITION conference, 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin briefly spoke with INSIDER to discuss the 76ers’ whirlwind season, from the Butler trade, to his favorite Embiid story, Simmons’ relationship with Kendall Jenner, and Fultz.
Scott Davis: What convinced you guys to make the move for Jimmy Butler?
Michael Rubin: Anything every team wants to do is, how do you strengthen the team on the court day in and day out? I think for the Sixers, it was certainly a great opportunity to bring in another superstar and to go from two superstars to three superstars is incredible.
Davis: What has surprised you about Butler’s fit with the team? What conceptions did you have about him that have been different in reality?
Rubin: I think Jimmy’s been incredible. We thought this was a guy who’s incredibly tough, and he’s even tougher than we thought. The way he’s been able to take two game-winning shots in his first few games just shows what he’s made of. He’s got a lot of experience. He’s a real baller making a real difference. He’s making a difference on the court and off the court, really in every aspect of the organization.
Davis: How have Butler and Joel Embiid worked together? There was some talk about whether two big personalities like theirs would clash. How has it been?
Rubin: I don’t think it’s a secret that I’m incredibly close with Jo. We talk about this all the time. I think they’re jelling really well. I think they’re liking each other. I think they really believe in each other.
I think, to be honest, the way I’ve seen Ben, Joel, and Jimmy all grow has been pretty incredible. I think Jimmy’s come in with the right attitude: ‘Hey, I don’t care if I don’t make as many shots as I used to because I’ve got two other superstars. I just want to win at all costs.’ By the way, that’s someone we wanted, someone who had a winning attitude. And that’s what he brings to the table.
Davis: What’s your best Joel Embiid story?
Rubin: I mean, how many days do you have to be here? I’ve got so many incredible Joel Embiid stories.
Well, one that’s pretty well known, we went to a friend’s birthday together in the Bahamas earlier this year. Joel, we had to convince him to go down a waterslide. After we got down the waterslide, in the Bahamas, there was, like, a rapid river and it was about two feet high. And Joel literally started hyperventilating and he thought he was drowning. I’m like, ‘Jo, stand up, stand up! You’re okay, bro!’ And he was literally like, it was like two feet of water that a five-year-old could stand up in, and he was literally drowning in the water.
Davis: Was there a moment of panic that your franchise star was going to drown in a lazy river?
Rubin: No, there was no moment of panic. It was two feet of water. I was 100% convinced that he could, on his knees, even if he just pushed his hands up, he’d be okay.
Davis: There’s Embiid’s on-court persona, which is well known. What’s he like off of the court? Is there something people don’t realize about him?
Rubin: No, the Joel you see on the court is exactly what you have off the court. He’s that much of a character day-in and day-out.
We went, we challenged Joel to a little sales competition in the NBA Store last week. On the way, I walked into my apartment, and Joel had ordered five dozen Krispy Kreme doughnuts. … He wanted to figure out how to fatten me up because he thought he could torture me and that was the fun thing to do … I’m not going to speak to how many he had, but it was a both disappointing — because we don’t want him eating sugar like that — but also impressive amount of doughnuts consumed.
Davis: Is it true he had to be cut off of Shirley Temples?
Rubin: He is not cut off from Shirley Temples.
Davis: What do you think about the petition that fans signed to keep Kendall Jenner from Sixers games?
Rubin: I think it’s ridiculous. I think Kendall’s awesome. I’ve spent a bunch of time with her. I was with Kendall a few days ago and Kendall insisted on going home and getting a good night’s sleep when Ben wanted to stay out for a late dinner. So, Kendall’s been a great influence on him, and we’ve won every game she’s been at but one so far.
Davis: Turning to something more serious, there’s a lot of speculation about the Markelle Fultz situation. What is the team doing to support him and help him through whatever he is going through?
Editor’s note: ESPN reported that Fultz was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition affecting the nerves between his neck and shoulders, resulting in a limited range of movement, shortly after this interview.
Rubin: Look, Markelle is an incredible human being. I know him well. You couldn’t get a more likable individual. I think we’re doing everything we can to support him on the court and off the court. We’re gonna make sure he gets the best medical care possible and we’re gonna do everything we possibly can to support him.