Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, a six-time All-Star, has been named the NBA’s best player of the 2022-23 season, the American professional basketball league announced Monday. The player born in Yaoundé (Cameroon) played football as a child and was a fan of Real Madrid. He didn’t start playing basketball until he was a teenager. He recounted a few years ago that he learned to shoot a basket with a tutorial from anonymous people on YouTube. He learned well. In the regular season he has added 33.1 points per game and has been the leading scorer for the second consecutive season, something a center has not achieved since Bob McAdoo nearly half a century ago.
The 29-year-old player and 2.13 meters tall has surpassed fellow finalists Nikola Jokic, Serbian, and Giannis Antetokoumpo, Greek, and has won the award for the first time in his career. In the previous two seasons, the best had been Jokic and in the previous two, Antetokoumpo. It is the fifth consecutive year that the distinction has not been won by an American by birth. The last to do so was James Harden, now Embiid’s teammate, who has hugged him along with the rest of the 76ers players when the ruling was made known at the team’s concentration hotel in Boston, where they play the semifinals of the Eastern Conference. “MVP! MVP! MVP!” His teammates have chanted.
Embiid has buried his head in his arms, excited. “She has been a long time coming,” he said later. “I have worked a lot. I’ve been through a lot. I’m not just talking about basketball. I speak of my life. From my story. Where do I come from. How did I get here and what did it cost me to be here ”, he added.
A story of talent and overcoming
Embiid’s is a story of natural qualities, talent and improvement. He grew up playing soccer and volleyball in his native Cameroon and aspired to take advantage of his height to become a professional volleyball player and settle in France. He still likes football and is a great supporter of Real Madrid. Frequently tweet during matches from the white club: “What a game. Go Madrid”, wrote last February 21 when the whites came back and beat Liverpool 2-5.
At the age of 15, however, he started playing basketball and was discovered on a campus in Cameroon by his compatriot Luc Mbah a Moute, then a player for the Milwaukee Bucks. Mbah a Moute convinced Embiid to travel to the United States. “When he came from Cameroon at 16, he didn’t know any English, he didn’t know anyone in America, he didn’t understand the culture except basic hip-hop. And I know people kind of know my story, but I don’t think they really understand how crazy it is. Because I had only started playing basketball, literally three months before they made me an offer to go to play high school in Florida, ”he recounted a few years ago.
He settled in Florida and didn’t fit in well at first school. He knew how to dunk, but he barely dribble or shot to the basket. In his first training session he did so badly that his teammates laughed at him and he ended up crying in the locker room and wondering what he was doing there. “When people say I can’t do something, I love it. I really want to prove them wrong. So I said to myself: alright, I’m going to work and work in the gym until I’m good.
He transferred to The Rock School, a Gainesville high school his sophomore year. He says that he quickly improved his game near the basket, but he still didn’t know how to shoot. He started teaching him a teammate, but there was no way to beat him, he was failing the basics. So one night he started looking on YouTube and says that the search that returned him was “White people shooting triples.” “Those are the guys I learned from on YouTube. Just random people shooting 3s with perfect form. (…) It was crazy, because getting some pitching changed my whole game. Teams couldn’t play against me anymore and I started to do much better. I know people are going to think I’m exaggerating, but it’s a true story,” he recounted.
In his senior year at the institute, he led the team to the state championship with 33 wins in 37 games. Back then he wasn’t such a scorer. He had numerous proposals from universities and he opted for the one in Kansas, where he coincided with the Canadian Andrew Wiggins, current player of the Golden State Warriors. He missed the qualifiers with an injury and the team was knocked out.
After just one year in college, he declared himself eligible for the draft 2014, but in a training session with the Cleveland Cavaliers, who had the first pick, he seriously injured his foot. Cleveland selected Wiggins and Embiid was selected third, by the 76ers. The Philadelphians already counted on him missing his first season on the team, but when he was recovering he suffered a relapse and spent another blank season.
He didn’t give up. On October 26, 2016, he became the third Cameroonian to debut in the NBA, after Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje and the aforementioned Luc Mbah a Moute. He started against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the regular season opener and had 20 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks in 25 minutes of play. He played at a high level and everything seemed on track for him to be proclaimed the best rookie of the year when another injury, now to a meniscus, crossed his path.
He had to wait for the following season, 2017-2018, to display his qualities again. Since he played the all-star game in 2018, he has been selected every year for that event, always as a starter. He took the nickname “the Process” in response to the refrain from 76ers fans during Sam Hinkie’s era as general manager, which was “trust the process”.
While fans chant his nickname, he has been adding to his stats. There are few players so complete and decisive. Last season he already became the top scorer in the regular league, something a center had not achieved since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000. Repeating this year, the precedent goes back to 1976, with Bob McAdoo, the last center to he was the top scorer two years in a row.
Embiid is the fifth player from the 76ers, with whom he has a contract until 2027, to win league MVP, joining Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, Allen Iverson and Moses Malone. The Cameroonian is the seventh player not born in the United States to be named MVP since the award’s inception.
Embiid and Harden have led the 76ers to a 54-28 regular-season record, the team’s best since 2000-01. Those of Philadelphia, third seeded in the playoffs, They have won the first game of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Celtics this week in Boston. Curiously, they have prevailed despite the loss of their best player, down due to a knee injury.
This season, Embiid has also had 10.2 rebounds and made a career-high 54.8% of his field goals. He is the third player in NBA history to average at least 33 points and 10 rebounds on 54% shooting from the field, along with Chamberlain (1965-66 MVP) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1971 MVP). -72). Antetokounmpo and Jokic also had enviable statistics.
Joel Embiid is the first player to win the Kia NBA MVP Award with the 76ers since Allen Iverson in the 2000-01 season.
Complete voting results ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/kko3o8tmxi
—NBA Communications (@NBAPR) May 2, 2023
On defense, Embiid put up 1.7 blocks (7th in the NBA) and had 1.0 steals per game in the regular season. He and Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr. were the only two players in the league this season to average at least 1.5 blocks and 1.0 steals, but Embiid’s case may not reflect how intimidating he is in defending.
He has left games that break the statistics, such as when last November, against the Utah Jazz, he added 59 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists and 7 blocks. He has surpassed 50 points in three games and 40, in 13. That has earned him the title of best player in the league, the second African to achieve it after the Nigerian Hakeem Olajuwon in 1994. Now he has another challenge: to win the NBA champion title.
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