Joel Embiid is an unlikely basketball superstar. After all, he hadn’t played organized basketball until he was 15 years old, and had excelled in volleyball as a child. However, the basketball bug soon got to him and he started training. After being scouted by Luc Mbah a Moute at the age of 16, Embiid would play for Kansas and then get drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers.
The player recounted his journey in a long-form piece for The Players’ Tribune. He described how the first basketball game he saw was Orlando Magic vs LA Lakers in the 2009 NBA Finals. Embiid eventually got to talking about his assimilation into American culture and ended by talking about Kobe Bryant.
Embiid wrote, “That was my exposure to American culture— Bow Wow, Kanye, and Kobe. Sometimes I’d go to this court by my house where guys would play pickup, and every time I’d shoot the ball, I’d literally yell out, “KOBE!” Imagine it. I’m out there shooting bricks, yelling out Kobe, on a busted hoop in Cameroon. Seven years later, I was playing Kobe. It’s a movie. It’s really a movie.”
Playing against the man that inspired you to play basketball would be a surreal feeling for anyone, and it is nice to see Joel Embiid recount a story like this.
Embiid has often referred to Kobe as one of his basketball inspirations. He was in the league alongside Kobe for two years, but he missed one of the seasons due to injury. The on-court encounters with Kobe were very few, and Embiid must no doubt remember them as positive memories. Meanwhile, Kobe did see him emerge into a generational center.
Embiid will have a real chance at contending this season in Philadelphia after GM Daryl Morey has reshaped the roster around him and Ben Simmons. More wing players have been added, along with shooting depth. There is a lot to be excited about if you are Joel Embiid or a fan of the Philadelphia 76ers.
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