How Em­biid got to the NBA

The Week (US) - - 10 News -

Joel Em­biid didn’t play a game of bas­ket­ball un­til he was 15, said Clay Skip­per in GQ, and now he’s one of the NBA’s bright­est stars. Grow­ing up in Yaoundé, the cap­i­tal of Cameroon, Em­biid dreamed of be­com­ing an as­tro­naut. “I don’t even know if there’s a Cameroo­nian as­tro­naut.” His par­ents were ul­tra­strict about school and didn’t want him wast­ing time play­ing sports. “When my mom found out” he’d gone off to play, “it was bad for me.” He didn’t pick up bas­ket­ball un­til 15, but de­spite be­ing able to do lit­tle more than dunk, he was of­fered a schol­ar­ship to a pow­er­house prep school in Flor­ida. He watched YouTube videos of ran­dom white guys shoot­ing three-point­ers, then spent hours mim­ick­ing their pic­turesque form. With un­usual touch for a man stand­ing 7-foot-2, Em­biid dom­i­nated dur­ing one year at the Univer­sity of Kansas and was drafted third over­all by the Philadel­phia 76ers. In­juries kept him side­lined his first two sea­sons. He re­mem­bers “peo­ple mak­ing fun of me. Telling me that I was a bust. That I was done. That I was never go­ing to play in the NBA.” But he’s emerged as an MVP can­di­date on an up-and-com­ing team and is one of the league’s most pop­u­lar play­ers, thanks to his play­ing an­tics and trash-talk­ing on the court and on so­cial me­dia. “I love when peo­ple talk trash. I en­joy when peo­ple tell me, ‘You suck, you can’t drib­ble, you can’t shoot.’” There’s only one re­sponse to that jeer­ing: “Gotta go to the gym.”

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