Joel Embiid may be the NBA's MVP frontrunner today, but there was a time when he didn't think he'd even make an NBA roster.
In a chat with Draymond Green on his podcast, the 76ers star retold the story of his path to stardom and revealed the lack of confidence he felt early on.
“I didn't start playing basketball until I was 16. Before that I was playing soccer, I was playing volleyball, so I was actually about to go to France to try to become a professional volleyball player until Luc Mbah a Moute came back to Cameroon and had a camp -- a camp I didn't even want to go to because I had just started playing basketball like three months before that. So I was like yo I’m not good enough. You know these guys they’ve been playing basketball their whole lives and there’s no way I’m gonna get picked for his camp.” said Embiid. "And that was at the time I thought I was gonna be in college for like five years and I really didn’t think I had the potential to be in the NBA because my whole goal coming to America was to use this basketball opportunity to try to get a degree and make something out of my life. Go back home and, you know, make money and help my family. And all that stuff so I never believed that I had any chance in basketball.”
Despite the odds, Ebmiid officially became an NBA player in 2014, when he was picked 3rd overall by the Philadelphia 76ers. He would spend the next two seasons rehabbing from surgery and working to get back on the court.
He made his debut in 2016, and immediately showed his star potential. He only played 31 games that season but posted averages of 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game on 46% shooting.
It was enough to get him an extension, and Embiid hasn't made the 76ers regret it.
Today, he is one of the NBA's best players and leading a Sixers team poised for a long playoff run.