Former KU center Joel Embiid secures spot on Team USA, will play in 2024 Olympics

Former University of Kansas center Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers has been named to the 2024 USA Basketball Men’s National Team, USA Basketball announced on Wednesday.

The 12-player squad will compete at the Olympic Games from July 26 to Aug. 11 in Paris, France.

Embiid, 30, who will be playing in his first Olympic Games, chose competing for the U.S. over France as well Cameroon, where he was born. He became a U.S. citizen in 2022 and a French citizen a few months before that.

Embiid, now in his eighth season with the 76ers after playing at KU one season (2013-14), joins LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers), Kevin Durant (Phoenix Suns), Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat), Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns), Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors), Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers), Anthony Edwards (Minnesota Timberwolves), Tyrese Haliburton (Indiana Pacers), Jrue Holiday (Boston Celtics), Kawhi Leonard (L.A. Clippers) and Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics) on the Team USA roster.

Embiid becomes the first KU player since Sasha Kaun to compete in the Olympics in basketball. Kaun won a bronze medal while representing Russia in the 2012 Olympics in London. The last KU player to play for Team USA was Danny Manning in 1988. Embiid is the second Sixer to play in the Olympics. Allen Iverson was the other player who was a Sixer at the time of the Games in 2004.

Embiid is one of four NBA MVP’s on the Team USA roster, joining James, Durant and Curry. Embiid, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, played in 28 games (starting 20) at KU in the 2013-14 season. He averaged 11.2 points and 8.1 rebounds and was named second-team all-conference. He also was the 2014 Big 12 defensive player of the Year and named to the 2014 Big 12 newcomer and Big 12 all-defense teams.

Embiid set the Kansas freshman record for most blocked shots in a game with eight blocked shots against Oklahoma State. He also set the KU freshman record for most rebounds per game (8.1), most blocks in a single freshman season (72), and posted the highest field goal percentage in a freshman season at Kansas (62.6%).

Back in October, Embiid announced he wanted to play for Team USA.

“My son is American,” Embiid told “I’ve been here for such a long time. I feel like for the past few years every decision has been mainly based on family. Family, that’s really what it came down to.”

France’s roster includes 7-footers Rudy Gobert — a three-time NBA All-Star — and Victor Wembanyama, the No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. Cameroon’s men’s basketball team has never played in an Olympics or World Cup, but did qualify for one of four last-chance global qualifying tournaments to be held in July.

On Wednesday, Embiid was handed a Team USA jersey by USA Basketball managing director Grant Hill in Philadelphia.

“It’ll be a good summer,” Embiid told Hill upon receiving the jersey.

Sixers coach Nick Nurse was asked Wednesday by the Philadelphia Daily News if Embiid’s health issues (he’s missed 43 games this season because of injury) would affect his participation in the Games.

“I think it’s a ways away,” Nurse said. “I think he’s said the same thing several times now that if he is healthy at that time he wants to play. I certainly admire him for that and can see why he wants to do that. So I’m just going to focus on getting this next game done and when that kind of gets a little closer we’ll see how he’s doing then.”

“We’re giving ourselves a chance to win with the talent we have,” Grant Hill said Wednesday on NBC’s “Today” show after the team was announced on the program. “It’ll be exciting. It’ll be tough. It won’t be easy. We have great respect for all the other teams. But certainly, this is going to be an iconic roster.”

“The goal is to win the gold,” Hill added. “They know that.”

Team USA has won the last four Olympic gold medals and remains ranked No. 1 in the world by FIBA. Team USA failed medal in the two most recent World Cups — finishing seventh at China in 2019 and fourth at Manila last summer.

The United States will be coached by Steve Kerr, assisted by Erik Spoelstra, Tyronn Lue and Mark Few. The roster could change before the summer because of injuries or players changing their minds about playing after what could be a deep run in the NBA playoffs.

I think everybody understands that these Olympics are going to be maybe the most anticipated, given that it’s Paris, in terms of players wanting to go, players’ wives wanting to go, everybody wanting to go,” U.S. coach Steve Kerr said. “It made for some really difficult decisions for us, for sure.”

Last week, KU freshman Johnny Furphy was named to the Australian Boomers team and will be competing for a spot on the Australian National Team roster for the 2024 Olympic Games.