Joel Embiid, the third pick in the 2014 NBA draft by the Philadelphia 76ers, has had some issues staying on the court due to injuries. But in his two seasons played so far, he has proven why he was drafted so highly.
Embiid has the potential to be a superstar in this league for years to come. In just 94 career regular season games, Embiid has consistently impressed. In just his second year, Embiid was named as a starter to the All-Star Team, starting at center for Team LeBron James.
With someone of Embiid’s caliber, being so talented so early in his career, it’s easy to assume that basketball had always been a part of his plan. However, in Embiid’s recent Players Tribune article, he reveals that basketball wasn’t in his future until 2009, when he was a 15-year-old in Cameroon.
Embiid explained how watching Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers play the Orlando Magic in the 2009 NBA Finals made him fall in love with the game and want to become an NBA player, via Players Tribune:
The first time I ever watched an NBA game was the 2009 Finals. Lakers vs. Magic. Dwight. Pau. Odom. KOBE. I had never seen anything like that. I was watching those dudes shoot like 100% from the floor. Everything was going in. The way they moved, and the athleticism, I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I had that moment like, I just wanna do that. I begged my mom and dad. I begged for a year. My dad was like, “Nobody in Cameroon plays basketball. You can play volleyball.” I’m like, “Yo, volleyball?”
Watching Embiid now, it’s even crazier to think he didn’t even start playing basketball until 2009. And, like many young NBA players, Bryant being one of his inspirations to play is nothing surprising.
Bryant dominated the NBA from 2007-2010, so any young aspiring basketball player who watched the NBA during that time was likely mesmerized by his ability to score at will no matter what the situation.
Of course, Embiid is still early in his career, but if he continues to play at the level he’s been playing, there’s no doubt he could dominate the NBA, just as Bryant did, and become one of the league’s best players one day.