Finally Healthy Enough to Compete on the World Stage, Embiid Chooses USA

Joel Embiid, 29, never seemed destined for international basketball competition. Not that the 7-foot Cameroon native wasn’t capable of playing. Embiid had difficulty staying on the court for his NBA commitment and didn’t want to risk more mileage on his tires.

But times change. Embiid has citizenship in Cameroon and became a citizen of France and the United States in 2022. When it came to decision time for the 2024 Paris Olympic cycle, Embiid decided to play for his adopted home country, the United States. Embiid will have to stay healthy during the upcoming NBA season, but that is a concern for every player.

There is a lot that Embiid can still accomplish in basketball. He hasn’t won an NBA Championship yet and hasn’t come close to playing in one. On the international level, Embiid hasn’t even appeared. If Embiid can stay healthy, there will be plenty of options for Embiid to make waves before he retires.

 

Embiid Came to the United States at 16

 

Embiid wouldn’t have considered a basketball career a real possibility as a child. He didn’t even play the sport until he was 15. Embiid dreamed of playing professional volleyball in Europe but pivoted to basketball at age 15. Playing at a camp in Yaounde, Cameroon, he was discovered by NBA player Luc Mbah a Moute.

Mbah a Moute helped mentor Embiid and encouraged him to move to the United States. Embiid enrolled at Montverde Academy in Florida. He would later transfer to another school to get more playing time. Embiid helped The Rock School in Gainesville win a state championship, and he would sign to play for Kansas in college.

Embiid’s size made him attractive to colleges all over the United States. Landing with the Jayhawks allowed him to play with top talent.

 

Why Is Embiid Eligible for Nation Switch?

 

Since Embiid had never played for Cameroon, he could play with another country. Embiid’s decision not to play with Cameroon stemmed partly from the fact there was nothing guaranteed. Cameroon is one of 24 teams playing for four spots to gain access to the Olympic tournament.

Throughout Cameroon’s basketball history, it hasn’t notched many major accomplishments. Cameroon has never won the African championship but did finish runner-up in 2007 and in fourth place in 2009. During Cameroon’s last attempt to win the African championship, they placed 16th and lost all three games at the tournament.

 

Injury Issues Limited Time with Jayhawks

 

Kansas didn’t get much time with Embiid. The Jayhawks were able to pair him with future NBA champion Andrew Wiggins. Embiid scored 11.2 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. A stress fracture in his back ended his freshman season in March. The Jayhawks went on to lose in the second round of the NCAA tournament.

Embiid declared for the NBA Draft in April of 2014. In June of that year, he had surgery on his foot, ensuring his start to his professional career would be delayed. That delay would last much longer than what many keeping tabs on up-to-date sports news would have anticipated.

 

Embiid Flirts with Cameroon, Gets on Court With 76ers

The foot injury Embiid got surgery on would last for two years. Embiid would miss his first two seasons with the Sixers entirely. Embiid did get on the court during the 2016-17 season, averaging 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds per game.

In 2017, Embiid was listed on the preliminary roster of AfroBasket for Cameroon. Embiid ultimately declined the invitation. He eventually decided to focus on his NBA career while he was making up his mind about international basketball.

Embiid scored 20 or more points per game in all of his seasons in the league. He was named MVP of the 2022-23 season. The most games Embiid has played as a professional was 68 during the 2021-22 season. During the 2022-23 season, Embiid was chosen as the NBA’s MVP.

 

Team USA Needs a Spark

The recent FIBA basketball World Cup saw the United States not medal for the second straight tournament. It’s the first time that has happened since 1970. The Americans needed to improve at the tournament in size and defense. Embiid can provide that.

Seeing Team USA lose has also inspired many veteran NBA players to offer their services for the 2024 Olympics team. Steph Curry and LeBron James have spoken publicly and said they want to be involved. James is a multiple-time gold medalist, while Curry would like to add the championship to his resume.

Embiid wanted to join the team so his son Arthur, 3, could see him represent his country. The United States has a long history of success in men’s basketball at the Olympics. The USA has won 16 times, earning a win over France in the finals of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

 

Flirting With France

 

Embiid spent time in France as a child and always loved the country. When looking for a home for international basketball, Embiid seriously looked at the European nation. French fans may have even thought there was a chance he might commit to them. Embiid was offered French citizenship, and he was accepted in 2022.

France has made a strong push on the international scene with basketball. Recent sports updates show the rest of the world has started to catch up to the United States. France beat the United States during the group stage at the Olympics but lost to the Americans in a rematch in the final.

When Embiid gained citizenship, France hoped to pair him with Rudy Gobert and youngster Victor Wembanyama. The French had given Embiid citizenship as an alien whose “naturalization is of exceptional interest.” While the French were disappointed Embiid went in a different direction, giving him citizenship was worth the risk.                                                                                                                              For all the latest MLB, NBA, NFL, and Soccer News, stay up to date on BlackSportsDigest.

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