France over Cameroon
Embiid was born in Yaoundé, Cameroon but expressed interest in joining the French national team as early as 2018. Longtime Les Blues player Nicolas Batum invited the Philadelphia 76ers star in 2014, but the MVP contender shrugged it off, saying he’s not French.
However, it seems like Embiid is singing a different tune now. If Batum wanted the sweet-shooting center to join them, count Tony Parker as one of those who initially opposed it in 2018 in an interview published on News4SA. Parker retired from playing for Les Bleus in 2016.
“I think you have to play the national team with the players who are from the country, who grew up there, all that. For me it's just a matter of principle. Because, Joel Embiid is a good guy. I only heard good things about him. He laughs, he speaks French, all that. It's nothing against him. It's just a matter of principle.”
Tony could be one of those purists who would rather play with French players than naturalized ones. It might be a pride thing, but one thing he failed to consider is that basketball has evolved, and adding Embiid to a lineup that features Rudy Gobert would only improve the squad. The Spain national team never lacked the height, but they welcomed Serge Ibaka in 2011. Ibaka chose Spain over his home country Republic of the Congo.
Choosing countries with a higher chance to compete at a higher level will always be controversial. Fans could accuse players of thinking only about themselves, but it is what it is. Players like Embiid and Ibaka should decide what’s good for their families and career. They have the chance to map out their future and should not be blamed for choosing the better option as everyone else would.
Embiid’s first game as a French player
Jojo is set to sign the papers in June once the NBA season is over if all goes to plan. He might not feature in the French national team’s next game in the FIBA Eurobasket qualifiers in July because he still has some injuries, including a right thumb injury that might need to be surgically corrected.
At 28 years old, Les Bleus are set to benefit from the peak years of its new naturalized center. However, the Sixers’ front office might not like the idea of their star suffering from injuries while playing in the offseason. But as Embiid has made his choice and France is more than willing to add him to the group, it’s best to respect that and wait for what impact he could deliver to Les Bleus. The Gobert-Embiid twin towers should be a sight to see.