Joel Embiid says he 'loves' Lonzo Ball despite social media trash talk

Joel Embiid wants to make one thing clear before his first appearance in Los Angeles this week: He "loves" Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball.

All that beef the Philadelphia 76ers star center seemed to have with Ball and his outspoken father, LaVar Ball, on social media is just trash talk as far as Embiid is concerned.

"I love Lonzo," Embiid told ESPN. "The whole situation with them, I think it's just fun. I love what he's doing, especially with his own shoe. He's staking his own place. People think I hate him, but I love him."

Embiid said the NBA draft-night tweet of June 22 in which he told Sixers rookie Ben Simmons, "Please dunk on him so hard that his daddy runs on the court to save him" was meant to be a funny reference to something Simmons' sister Olivia had tweeted after LaVar Ball's controversial interaction with Fox Sports host Kristine Leahy. On May 18, Olivia Simmons tweeted, "I hope my brother dunks on Lonzo Ball so hard next year that his daddy runs on the court to help him up."

At 23, Embiid is already one of the NBA's biggest trash-talkers on and off the court. But he's a playful trash-talker, not a fearsome one. So in his mind at least, this "feud" with the Ball family is more like a WWE-style callout than real animosity.

"I just meant it to be funny," Embiid said. "Even the thing I said 'Oh please dunk on him,' I just took it from [Simmons'] sister, who said that like weeks before that."

LaVar Ball responded to Embiid's trash talk a week later in an interview with Philadelphia radio station 97.5, saying "When you don't win and don't even make the playoffs, and don't even stay on the court long enough, that's the best thing you can do is tweet, make some stuff," Ball said. "Ain't nobody else doing that, because they're working on their game in the gym. These guys ain't played a game, always hurt, and at the bottom of the totem pole.

"So guess what, get your asses off the god damn Tweeter, and get in the gym."

Embiid was then captured on an Instagram live video saying, "F--- LaVar Ball," a statement for which he was fined $10,000 by the NBA for using vulgar language.

Later, in an appearance at the Variety Sports an Entertainment summit in July, Embiid was quoted as saying, "I think most people have been wanting to say that. I guess I was the guy to say that and I'm glad I said it."