How tragedy, injury almost convinced Joel Embiid to quit the NBA

Yahoo Sports

Joel Embiid is a force.

He has quickly evolved from an intriguing NBA prospect to one of the league’s most dominant players in three seasons.

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The Philadelphia 76ers center is averaging 27 points, 13.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and two blocks per game. At 24 years old, he’s still ascending as a player.

Embiid was close to quitting basketball

According to Embiid, we almost didn’t get a chance to see him reach this level.

He told ESPN on Wednesday that a series of life events almost convinced him to quit the NBA after his rookie year.


Injury, tragedy took a toll

“After my first year, when I found out that I needed a second surgery, and that was at the time that my brother had just died too. So to me, in my head I was like ‘what am I even doing here? I have one year of salary under my belt. And that’s enough to go back to Cameroon.’

“It was just bad. It was just a bad feeling. I thought about quitting.”

Injury and tragedy almost convinced Joel Embiid to quit the NBA before his playing career even started. (Getty)
Injury and tragedy almost convinced Joel Embiid to quit the NBA before his playing career even started. (Getty)

Embiid has alluded to quitting before

This isn’t the first time Embiid has opened up about his basketball development after arriving in the United States from Cameroon as a raw player at 16 years old.

He’s halfway joked about learning to to shoot by watching “regular white people” shoot online.

“You know how I learned to shoot?” Embiid told SI. “I watched white people. Just regular white people. They really put their elbow in and finish up top. You can find videos of them online.”

Dunk was too much

He wrote in The Players’ Tribune that being dunked on as a freshman at Kansas almost convinced him to quit the game.

“My very first scrimmage at Kansas, I got dunked on so hard by Tarik Black that I almost quit. Tarik dunked on me so hard that I was looking at plane tickets home. This guy was a senior. He was a grown man. I didn’t know what was going on. He got his own rebound and dunked over me so hard that everything went in slow motion.”

Embiid’s story is relatable

While there was a light-heartedness to those stories, Embiid opened up about genuine sorrow and frustration in his life in the ESPN interview that anyone who’s dealt with tragedy or been a long way from home can relate to.

For a while, it looked like Embiid was going to be a bust — a superb physical talent with a natural feel for the game whose career would be derailed by injury before it got off the ground.

Add that disappointment to the devastation of being a continent away when his brother died in a car crash in Cameroon in 2014 and having more than $4 million in his pocket from his rookie contract, and it’s easy to understand why Embiid felt the urge to return home.

Africa, brother inspired Embiid

But he didn’t. He explained that in the end he wanted to push forward with his life story for his brother and his people back home.

“One thing that pushed me was being patient, and my brother also and being from Africa,” Embiid said. “Because at the end of the day, you come here, you want to make an impact and share your story with everybody.”

Thankfully for Embiid, the 76ers and the basketball-loving public, he stuck those hard times out. If he continues to stay healthy, he has a lot of fascinating years of basketball ahead of him.

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