We’ve all heard of him, and hopefully he will one day be the answer. He is the most talked about Sixer, yet he hasn’t even suited up for a single game since being drafted 3rd overall in the 2014 draft. He has already had two foot surgeries, and will now miss his second consecutive season due to this ongoing foot injury. He is of course, Joel Embiid, or as I like to call him, the “Embiid Factor.”
What makes Embiid so interesting to the everyday fan? Why does he captivate the Philly spotlight, and continue to grab headlines without even playing? To understand Embiid is to understand the mystique that surrounds him, starting with his upbringings. Embiid is a native Cameroonian (yes you said that right) who was born to military officers in the capital of the country, Yaounde. Initially aspiring to be a volleyball player, Embiid first picked up a basketball at the age of 15, modeling his game after his African native, Hakeem Olajuwon. By a stroke of luck, Embiid was discovered by a then future teammate on the Sixers, Luc Mbah a Moute, at a basketball camp in Mbah a Moute’s same hometown of Yaounde (small world right?). Under Mbah a Moute’s wing, Embiid moved to the states at the age of 16 and enrolled at Mbah a Moute’s high school alma mater, Montverde Academy in Montverde, Florida to begin his high school basketball career.
After playing one year at Montverde, Embiid transferred to The Rock School located in Gainesville, Florida, where he found his stride. As a senior Embiid averaged 13.0 points and 9.7 rebounds per game, and led his team to a 33-4 record while taking the state championship as well. Embiid came out of high school as a five-star recruit, and committed to play for the Kansas Jayhawks in 2012.
At Kansas, Embiid played 28 games averaging 11.2 points per game, 8.1 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, and was named a top-30 finalist for the Naismith Player of the Year Award. However, this is where Embiid’s long history of injuries began. That same season (2013-14), he suffered a stress fracture in his back missing the entire Big 12 tournament as well as the NCAA Tournament.
After one season with the Jayhawks, the Embiid Factor officially declared for the 2014 NBA Draft. Being one of the deepest draft classes in recent years, there was much speculation over who would be taken as the top overall pick. For a while, it seemed as if the Cleveland Cavaliers, who held the first overall pick, would be taking Embiid, but among further speculation it became clear that the Cavs were going to take Embiid’s teammate at Kansas, “the next LeBron”, Andrew Wiggins. What also severely hurt Embiid was the injury that has now kept him from suiting up in a single NBA game, a broken navicular bone in his right foot that he suffered a mere six days before the scheduled draft.
Being ruled out for 4-6 months certainly hurt Embiid’s draft stock, but only a little as he fell to the third overall pick to who else but the city of brotherly love! An ESPN camera caught Embiid after the pick had been announced, and he certainly didn’t look like he was feeling the brotherly love by being selected by the Sixers. His face was a mix between angry, sad, and confused when the announcement came through the wire. Thus the Philly hysteria over Embiid has begun.
After missing his entire rookie season due to his broken foot, and after undergoing a second surgery just a week ago to correct a setback, it doesn’t look like we will be seeing much of Embiid in a Sixers uniform until at least the 2016-17 season. But at the same time, without ever stepping foot into a live NBA regular season game, this man has captured the attention of Philly fans everywhere. Maybe it can be attributed to his Cameroonian upbringing, or his famous draft day face, or maybe it’s something else…his twitter account.
Embiid is a known hilarious tweeter, and has continually tweeted his mind ever since being drafted. Less than a month after he was drafted, Embiid tweeted out; “Hey I want you to come slide in my DMs @KimKardashian” followed up by “Oh I didn’t know you were married sorry @KimKardashian just saw it from the fan’s tweet… have a nice day”. Fans reacted in an uproar of laughter, and the tweets kept on coming. Since then, he has famously tried to recruit LeBron James to come to the Sixers via Twitter, and then proceeded to block him on Twitter when LeBron never answered. Just take a look up and down Embiid’s Twitter page and you’ll find a slew of hilarious tweets at athletes, celebrities, and sometimes the occasional fan. The Emiid Factor has captured Philly’s attention OFF the court, and not in a bad way, which is something that is very hard to do.
I’ll leave you guys with this. Embiid may be a jokester on Twitter, but come the 2016 season, he better be ready for action. Sixers fans aren’t going to be all laughs and smiles if he never actually plays, and not just that, but he’s going to have to play well. Not even just well, but outstanding. The hype around Embiid extends beyond his social media accounts and interesting upbringing. The hype reaches the court, which is something we as fans haven’t gotten to see on display yet. If he disappoints, the Embiid Factor in Philly will quickly diminish into yet another “bust” for the Sixers, and Ebmiid will be forgotten quicker than the speedy Eagles’ play calling last season. However, if proven, the Embiid factor could last a long time in the Philadelphia backcourt playing alongside a talented group of young big men that include Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor pending any trades. The talent is there, the mystique is there, hopefully the “Embiid Factor” in Philadelphia will be a staple for years to come.