For Sixers center, Joel Embiid, his time in the NBA hasn’t been without out bumps and bruises. But after back-to-back seasons fighting injuries, the big man in the middle is finding his groove and as a result lending further insight into a life journey that included an alternative career choice and a life-changing incident that nearly pulled him away from basketball altogether.
During an in-depth interview with GQ Magazine, Embiid reveals a period during his early years where he wanted to detour away from athletics, despite excelling in volleyball and basketball. Instead, he wanted to take a more academic rout and be an astronaut. A unique choice for a region of the world that typically doesn’t spend time on space discovery.
He wanted to be… an astronaut, which he realizes now was a job not likely to be showcased at his middle school career fair. “[In] Cameroon, we don’t know shit about space,” he says. “I don’t even know if there’s a Cameroonian astronaut. That’s what I wanted to become. I wanted to become president, and I wanted to become an astronaut. Because I was really good at math.”
A tall order for the 7-footer and unfortunately a dream that could never be realized due to his immense size.
Fortunately for basketballs fans, Embiid opted not to become NASA’s first Cameroonian man on the moon and was ultimately drafted by the league. Unfortunately for “The Process,” consecutive seasons of injuries and a family tragedy nearly made him want to quit the NBA for good.
But the summer of 2015 brought more bad news: He’d need another surgery and would miss his second straight season. He’d need another surgery and would miss his second straight season. Hinkie’s Process was either not working or taking too long—it didn’t matter. He resigned under pressure and Embiid became the scapegoat. On top of the injury frustrations in his first two years, Embiid also had to cope with the tragic loss of his younger brother, killed by an out-of-control truck back home in Africa.
“All I wanted to do was go back home and, like, never come back—just disappear and stay home,” says Embiid.
Instead, he remained in Philadelphia, lived up to expectations and ultimately landed a $148 million franchise contract. A sum that will put those excellent math skills to work.
The Sixers are 2-1 for the 2018-2019 season.
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Photo Credit: Lane Stewart