Joel Embiid didn’t have your typical path to the NBA, we know this. When he was playing his sole year at the University of Kansas, he’d only been playing basketball for a couple of years, been in the States for an even shorter time, and played on three different teams in that span of three years. He didn’t have a time to - for lack of a better term - find his footing in his new home, which kept changing. That’s why it’s totally understandable that he’d be hesitant to leave Kansas so quickly.
According to “Beyond the Streak: Untold Stories from Kansas Basketball’s Unrivaled Big 12 Reign,” written by former Kansas City Star writer Jason King (and excerpted in the Star), the JoJo we know and love was unsure about entering the 2014 NBA draft.
Norm Roberts: “Joel didn’t want to enter the draft. He sat in my office in tears. He kept saying, ‘I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go. Call my mom and dad and tell them I want to stay.’ Then it was like, ‘Joel, you’re going to be a top three pick. You could be the No. 1 pick.’
“Luc, his mentor, said, ‘Norm, how could this kid not go in the draft when he’s going to be a top-three pick? How am I going to go back to his country and tell them that I told him to wait? What if something happens with his back or his foot? How can Joel do that and let his country down?’ He said that, and Joel was sitting right there. We all got up and started walking out of my office, and Joel turned around and looked at me and said, ‘Coach, can I call Coach Self? I’m going to have to go. I’ve gotta go, Coach. I’ve gotta go.’ I said, ‘OK, big fella. OK.’”
This isn’t necessarily shocking information, but with someone as supernaturally talented as Joel Embiid, it’s easy to forget that there is a living, breathing human doing everything he’s doing. The fairy tale story of Embiid’s journey to where he is today had many ups and downs which undoubtedly took a toll on the human under all of the spin moves and smack talk. Let’s just keep that in mind.