Kobe Bryant has inspired millions of people through the game of basketball and one of them is none other than Joel Embiid.
Growing up in Cameroon, Embiid originally planned to play professional volleyball in Europe until he watched the 2009 NBA Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic. As Bryant won his fourth championship and first without Shaquille O’Neal, a 15-year-old Embiid wanted to play basketball now.
Since then, Embiid has established himself as the best rising star in the game today.
While Embiid is known as a troll on social media, he had a humbled and appreciative tone of meeting Bryant following his final game in Philadelphia, via The Players’ Tribune:
The most surreal moment was when Kobe was retiring, and he played his last game in Philly. After the game, they set up a little room for us to talk for a minute. He walked in, and I shook his hand and I told him, “Man, I know you probably hear this a lot, but I literally started playing basketball because of you seven years ago. Whenever I’d be shooting the ball at the park, I’d be yelling out, ‘KOBEEEEEE!’ ”
As Embiid showed respect to his childhood idol, Bryant had a typical response:
He laughed and we talked for a minute, and then before he left he said the most Kobe thing. To most people, it wouldn’t mean anything. But to me, it was surreal. It was like I was in a video game or something.
He said, in the most Kobe way, “O.K., young fella. Keep working. Keep working.”
At the time of the conversation, Embiid had not even made his NBA debut despite being the No. 3 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. After dealing with major injuries to begin his career, those simple words from Bryant must have meant a lot to Embiid considering the circumstances.
As the Philadelphia 76ers continue to manage his minutes, the 24-year-old averaged 22.9 points and 11.0 rebounds in 63 games en route to first-time All-Star, All-NBA Second Team, and All-NBA Defensive Second Team honors.