Joel Embiid, the NBA’s reigning Most Valuable Player, has committed to play for the United States at next year’s Paris Olympics, ESPN reported on Thursday citing multiple sources.
The Philadelphia 76ers star informed Team USA executive director Grant Hill of his decision on Thursday morning, only days after the pair met for close to an hour in Fort Collins, Colorado, where the Sixers are holding training camp. Embiid is expected to address his decision later on Thursday.
The 29-year-old, who was born in Cameroon but has obtained French and American citizenship, was eligible to represent all three countries on the international stage.
“I love all three options,” Embid said on Monday at the Sixers’ media day. “Cameroon, I’m born there. I’m from there. I always want to represent my country, but the goal is also to play in the Olympics. If we had a chance or if we would qualify for the Olympics, that would be an easy decision, but that’s still up in the air.
“The US, obviously they’ve been struggling the last couple of years trying to get back on the top. You also got France, that’s up and coming. I’m just thankful that I’m able to be in that situation. It is a tough choice, but probably going to make that decision in the next few days.”
The decision strikes a major blow to the host nation’s gold medal hopes. Had Embiid opted to play for France, their roster would have potentially included three 7ft stars with NBA experience along with Rudy Gobert and No 1 draft pick Victor Wembanyama.
Instead, Embiid joins a United States side who have been undermanned at the center position in recent years and were consistently beaten on the offensive and defensive glass in their fourth-place finish at last month’s Fiba World Cup.
Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry are among the other NBA stars who have revealed their plans to play for the United States in Paris, where the Americans will try for a fifth consecutive gold medal. If he plays and the US win, Durant would be the first men’s player with four basketball golds.
“I will play in the Olympics next year,” Durant said at Phoenix’s media day.
Curry essentially said the same.
“Definitely want to be there,” Curry said at Golden State’s media day. “Definitely want to be on the team.”
Others expressed the same sentiment: Bam Adebayo has said he’s committed to the team, while DeMar DeRozan, Devin Booker, Bradley Beal, Jaylen Brown, Donovan Mitchell, Khris Middleton, Julius Randle, Zach LaVine, Aaron Gordon, Fred VanVleet and Brook Lopez are among those who indicated they would play if asked. Kyrie Irving said the same at the Dallas Mavericks’ media day last week, and Draymond Green previously indicated that he wants another Olympic opportunity.
This much is clear: There are 12 roster spots and a lot more than 12 interested players. It’s a good problem for USA Basketball to have.
“From the players that we have here off the top of my head that could fill that roster up, I don’t think it would be too much of a physical toll,” said LeBron James, the NBA’s all-time scoring leader confirming that he’s interested in another shot at gold. “I wouldn’t have to do much. Rebound a little bit, pass a little bit, defend, block some shots, you know? But we’ll see. We’ll see what happens.”