Sixers’ Joel Embiid reflects on journey from Cameroon to NBA MVP: ‘Unlikely doesn’t mean impossible’

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By Webdesk

Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid is currently battling a knee injury that has kept him out of his team’s last two playoff games, but he got some great news to ease the pain on Tuesday when he was officially named the 2023 NBA Most Valuable Player.

Embiid, who only started playing basketball when he was 15 years old, is from Cameroon and is the second player from Africa to win the league’s most prestigious honor, along with Hakeem Olajuwon. (Steve Nash was born in South Africa, but identifies as Canadian and played for the Canadian national team.)

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Embiid reflected on his incredible journey:

“It’s hard to win this competition; it’s hard to be successful in this competition,” Embiid said. “There’s a reason these are the best basketball players in the world. And to sit here and feel like I’ve won something up to Most Valuable Player is amazing. But again, it’s also part of my story, because I’ve always felt like I was a role model — especially to my Cameroonian people and my African people — and I feel like just looking at my story, they can look at it and say, ‘ Wow, he did it.’

“Probably the chance that someone like me, who starts playing basketball at 15, will have a chance to become the league’s MVP is probably minus zero. … We don’t have many chances back.” in Africa, in general, to get to this point. But unlikely doesn’t mean impossible, and you can achieve anything you set your mind to. As long as you believe in it, and you know, keep working hard, anything can happen.”

Embiid grew up playing soccer and volleyball, but became enamored with basketball after watching the 2009 Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and Orlando Magic, Yaron Weitzman wrote about the Sixers in his book, Tank to the top. Embiid wanted to turn his attention to the sport, but his parents preferred that he concentrate on school and volleyball, and the original plan was for him to study in France.

It was Embiid’s uncle who helped convince his parents to let him pursue his basketball dreams, and he made the connections that started the process. At a camp in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, Embiid met Luc Mbah a Moute, who became a mentor and helped Embiid travel to the United States. The big man spent his high school days in Florida before playing a season in Kansas. He was subsequently selected #3 in the 2014 NBA draft by the Sixers, and the rest is history.

For Embiid to reach these heights in less than 15 years after picking up the game is truly a remarkable achievement. Even once he made it to the NBA, there were so many moments where his career could have been sidelined, but he kept working and is now not only the MVP, but also has the chance to lead his team to a championship.

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