The 2m13 giant and friend of Thibaut Courtois: Who is Joel Embiid, who is visibly emotional after the first NBA MVP election? | More sports

He was awarded the MVP (Most Valuable Player) award for the first time in his career in the most prestigious basketball league in the world. He is also the first player from Philadelphia to receive the award since Allen Iverson in 2001. Meet 29-year-old leading scorer Joel Embiid. “I have overcome many obstacles.”

look. The players and staff congratulate a visibly emotional Joel Embiid

Cameroon is the top scorer in the NBA this year. Joel Embiid started playing basketball at the age of only 15, but over the past 9 seasons he has become an undisputed world star. With the Philadelphia 76ers, the 28-year-old has scored no fewer than 33.1 (!) points in the regular season this season. He led his team to the Eastern Conference Semifinals, where the Boston Sixers currently face. The Cameroonian follows world stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo (2019 and 2020) and Nikola Jokic (2021 and 2022) on the list of honours. The past two seasons, he’s narrowly missed out on honors, but this year he’s hit the ground running.

Embiid followed the announcement with his teammates and staff at a local hotel. When it became known that he could call himself the best player of the season, the center was clearly emotional. The other players also couldn’t stay with their joy. They kept chanting “MVP, MVP, MVP!” “I don’t know where to begin,” Embiid said at first. “It’s been a long road. I’ve overcome so many obstacles and done so much work. And I’m not just talking about basketball. It’s good to be where I am now.”

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Joel Embiid is visibly shaken after being voted the NBA Most Valuable Player © HLN

Embiid’s path to the NBA was extraordinary. He first wanted to become a professional volleyball player in Europe, while his parents saw him as a doctor. “I wasn’t supposed to be here,” he said last year on a podcast by former player JJ Reddick. He didn’t start playing basketball until he was 15, but it wasn’t smooth sailing either. “There were hardly any facilities for basketball,” Embiid said of the situation in his native Cameroon. “We didn’t have any halls, the conditions weren’t good.”

However, young Embiid’s talent was indisputable. As a junior, he received an invitation to a basketball camp from former basketball player and compatriot Luc Mbah-Ai Mut. Immediately making an impression, he was discovered by some scouts and brought to the United States. After playing at the University of Kansas for a year, he made the final transition to the NBA in 2014. Embiid was selected third overall by the Philadelphia 76ers in the so-called “draft” (the competition in which basketball players from around the world apply to be elected By The NBA Team, ed.).

Joel Embiid has been injured more times than he would like in his career
Joel Embiid has been injured more times than he would like in his career © USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

However, due to several foot injuries and a stuck knee—a problem he still occasionally struggles with—his East Coast debut was delayed for two seasons. But: Postponement is not an amendment. The center proved this in the 2016/17 season. Embiid then averaged 20.2 points and 7.8 rebounds. Not bad for his first proper season in the NBA, right? His performance even drew red devil Thibaut Courtois to the United States. The then Chelsea goalkeeper participated in a Sixers match during his vacation and then changed his shirt with the Cameroonian American. Note: Embiid is actually a fan of Arsenal.

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In the years that followed, Embiid confirmed his status at the top, even though he was regularly plagued by injuries. According to experts, this was mainly due to his weight (Empied weighed 127 kilograms and ate fast food regularly). As a result, he was less mobile on the field and more prone to injury. This season, he clicked and started living “healthier”. This helped his performance and he was named the FIFA World Player of the Year as the best award.

African basketball banner courtesy of Hakeem Olajuwon

Not only has Joel Embiid stood out for his impressive career, his election as the MVP of the league also means a lot to African basketball. While players of sub-Saharan origin in the NBA used to be lonely, today more and more basketball players from the continent are crossing the ocean. In addition to Embiid, more than a dozen other players are currently playing in the league. In addition, dozens of players have at least one African father. Of these, the Greek Giannis Antetokounmpo is the most famous example. He was born in Athens, but his parents are from Nigeria. This country is also the supplier of African players in the NBA.

The link between Embiid and Nigeria? This is Hakeem Olajuwon. He is a former Nigerian star who became the first African to debut in the NBA in 1984. The Dream excelled in footwork and creativity under the basket and was already named Most Valuable Player in 1994. A pioneer in African basketball and an example to many other players on the continent. Embiid was also inspired by it. As a teenager, he is said to have spent hours watching videos of the Nigerian star to improve his game. I watched a DVD every day for three years. I carefully studied the way he moved and tried to imitate him.

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with the score. Since then, the Philadelphia center has been seen as one of the absolute stars in the NBA. He averages about thirty points per game each year. His solid performance certainly didn’t hurt the Philadelphia Sixers, as this season he pushed his team into the semifinals of the playoffs. Will Embiid guide them to the address for the first time since 1983? He follows…

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Joel Embiid, who was sidelined here with a knee injury, cheers for his teammates in the semifinals against the Boston Celtics.
Joel Embiid, who was sidelined here with a knee injury, cheers for his teammates in the semifinals against the Boston Celtics. © ANP / EPA

Joel Embiid in discussion with the referee
Joel Embiid in discussion with the referee © Getty Images via AFP

Thibaut Courtois poses with NBA star Joel Embiid in 2016
Thibaut Courtois poses with NBA star Joel Embiid in 2016 © Twitter

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