For Pete's Sake

Joel Embiid on his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad first day at KU

Joel Embiid discusses what he misses most about college at Kansas

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, who played in college at KU, says he debates now with Duke teammates about which college arena is best. Embiid talked to reporters on Oct. 12, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.
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Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, who played in college at KU, says he debates now with Duke teammates about which college arena is best. Embiid talked to reporters on Oct. 12, 2017 at Allen Fieldhouse.

No one has ever said former Kansas basketball star Joel Embiid isn’t entertaining.

On his social media accounts, Embiid trolls fellow players, criticizes the NBA, pokes fun at himself and roots hard for the Jayhawks. Embiid, who is now with the Philadelphia 76ers, also makes sure that Philly fans “trust the process.”

Embiid doesn’t seem shy about sharing his feelings and that was certainly the case in an essay written on The Players’ Tribune with the headline, “Story Time.”

It’s a tale of what Embiid has gone through to get to this point: a multimillionaire who is one of the bigger stars in the NBA.

One of the interesting tidbits was Embiid recalling his first day with the KU basketball team and how it made him want to ... give up basketball.

“My very first scrimmage at Kansas, I got dunked on so hard by Tarik Black that I almost quit,” Embiid wrote. “Tarik dunked on me so hard that I was looking at plane tickets home. This guy was a senior. He was a grown man. I didn’t know what was going on. He got his own rebound and dunked over me so hard that everything went in slow motion.

“He dunked the ball off my head, for real. But I didn’t even tell you the worst part. The worst part was that the entire Kansas women’s hoops team was sitting in the bleachers watching the scrimmage. The whole gym was laughing at me. It was crazy. Seriously, it was like a WORLDSTAR situation.

“So I went straight to Bill Self’s office afterward and I said, ‘I can’t do this. You have to redshirt me. I can’t play with these guys.’

“And Bill was like, “What? Are you serious? In two years, you’re going to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft.”

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“The thing was, I had been told that all these college coaches lie. So I really thought he was trying to be slick with me. In my head, I was like, Alright, I’m just going to keep showing up and at least I’ll get a degree out of this. That will make my mom happy.”

Self wasn’t far off. Embiid was the third overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft after just one season. Embiid was a second-team All-Big 12 selection and the conference’s defensive player of the year.

In a way, it was Embiid’s mother (and father) who helped him get through those early struggles.

“The only thing that kept me going was the way that I was raised by my parents,” Embiid wrote. “They always told us to keep working, no matter what. I had this DVD that my coach in Cameroon had mailed to me when I first came to America. It was an hour-long tape of Hakeem Olajuwon and some other legendary big men. I probably watched that DVD every single day for three years. I would study the way Hakeem moved, and I would go out and try to imitate him.

“I did it in high school, and I did it at Kansas.

“I was basically just imagining that I was a good basketball player. The power of the mind is kind of amazing. I mean, I sucked. But somehow, I convinced myself that I was Hakeem. And I started getting better and better. And then I sort of started killing it.”

You can read the entire essay here.

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