Joel Embiid has put the Philadelphia 76ers on his back and earned MVP-caliber recognition as an all-around player—but he nearly left the NBA back in 2014.
Sixers big man Joel Embiid is being able to shine in a way he hasn’t for years. There are various factors—he’s watched tape to improve as an all-around player, the dust has settled with Ben Simmons, he dominated the pick-and-roll alongside James Harden—but what stands out the most is where Embiid has taken the 76ers in the course of a season.
The 76ers are in the thick of a race at the top of the Eastern Conference, ranking No. 3 with a 46-29 record. Embiid’s ability to fill in the space of Simmons’ absence, alongside the contributions of Tyrese Maxey, Matisse Thybulle and Tobias Harris.
That’s what makes it all the more shocking that eight years ago, Embiid contemplated an early retirement.
Back then, Embiid was rehabbing a fractured foot after the 76ers drafted him when his 13-year-old brother, Arthur, was killed by a runaway truck that crashed into a Cameroonian schoolyard.
In the wake of injury and personal tragedy, Embiid considered giving up his NBA career and moving back home to Cameroon.
“I was in a bad place,” Embiid told Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. “And that’s when all the stories were coming out every single day. ‘Oh, Joel, he doesn’t want to work. He’s a bust. He’s never going to play.’ There was all this bad stuff. And then you add my loss.” Embiid’s voice trails off. “People don’t understand the human side of all of it,” he says. “But I never complain about it. We make a lot of money. [Criticism] comes with it.”
Joel Embiid contemplated retirement amid injury, tragedy and criticism
Perhaps Embiid is speaking on this more lately as his MVP season puts those early-career thoughts into perspective. Speaking with Philadelphia’s KYW Radio in February, Embiid admitted that he “wanted to give up” before his NBA career truly began.
“Going back to Cameroon, I really wanted to stop playing basketball and really retire, because at that point, you just have surgery and everybody’s talking about you’re not gonna make it or you never gonna play in the league, and obviously, the loss of my brother was a was big. I wanted to give up and I almost did,” Embiid recalled.
Since then, Embiid has been one to “trust the process”, waiting for his opportunity to develop as a player and take the reins when Simmons stepped away from his team. Mannix’s profile demonstrates just how far Embiid has come and all that he has endured to be here today.