PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Just one game away from possibly closing out his first-ever NBA Playoffs series win, Sixers larger-than-life big man Joel Embiid found time away from the hardwood shrine to attend a Sunday night church mass in Delaware County.
The Sixers center even made a special friend.
Spend a few seconds with 8-year-old Evan Murphy and it becomes instantly clear what he loves.
“Trust the process,” he said.
The little boy with Down syndrome has a big heart for Philadelphia sports teams and proudly represents one person in particular: number 21, Joel Embiid.
“He puts his jersey on as soon as he wakes up in the morning,” says Evan’s mom, Kristen.
On Saturday, he was glued to the television during Game 4 of the NBA playoffs.
Little did he know who he’d meet the following day.
“Twenty-four hours after the picture of him in front of the TV, he’s meeting him,” his mother said.
The Sixers star calls himself the ‘Phantom of the Process.’ On Sunday, he materialized — not on the basketball court — but at mass at St. Kevin Parish in Springfield, Delaware County.
Those attending the 5:30 mass didn’t notice until communion, says Evan’s dad, Brendon Murphy.
“You see this person who’s over 7-feet tall coming up in the communion line,” he said. “We were in boy/girl sections and you see every little kid, all 30 of them, turn around and watch [Embiid] walking all the way around to the back.”
The basketball star took a break from “processing” to greet fans and take photos.
“Everybody was excited,” Embiid told reporters during a press conference. “I had fun too. I’m Catholic, it was Sunday and it’s the thing to do I felt like going to church… I needed to go to church.”
It’s perhaps just the beginning of a beautiful friendship; Evan invited Embiid and Ben Simmons over for a sleepover and Chinese food.
“I miss you very much, I miss you and I’m going to hang out with Ben Simmons,” Evan said.
The Murphys say they’re grateful.
“Thank you for being so kind to all those kids. Every one of those kids in that church will remember for the rest of their lives,” Kristen said.
It may even change some churchgoing patterns.
“We’ll definitely be going to St Kevin’s more,” they joked.
The Sixers host the Miami Heat for game five of the playoffs on Tuesday night.