Joel Embiid is one of the best players in today's NBA and one of the most dominant centers we have seen for a long time. But not so long ago, at the start of his college career, Embiid was close to quitting the sport of basketball. All because of one man.
Embiid has become a household name in the NBA for some years now, most notably labeled "The Process." The center caught sympathies from many fans in the NBA world due to his exceptional skills on the court, hilarious antics off the court, and never-ending trash-talking in-game or on social media. When healthy, Embiid is one of the most unstoppable players in the NBA. But before he became an NBA star, Joel was just another scrawny African kid from Cameroon who didn't play basketball or was interested in it.
But after watching the 2009 Finals and Kobe winning it all, Embiid fell in love with the game. Shortly after picking up a basketball for the first time, Embiid used his talents and size to make the best of it. He received a scholarship to play for a private school in Florida and already got recruited by the Kansas Jayhawks the following year. That's how good he got in such a short time.
Even though he worked hard on his game and earned a spot with a great team in Kansas, Embiid almost gave it all up because of one play that happened during practice. During the preseason workouts in 2013, Embiid was getting ready for his first taste of serious basketball. It was a huge jump and adjustment period for Joel - he wasn't the confident player he is today.
His matchup and peer at the center position was a senior who already established himself as one of the team's best players and had all the tools to play on the next level. His name is Tarick Black. During a scrimmage between the Kansas Jayhawks teammates, the practice arena was packed with people from around campus. Embiid was nervous as ever going against the much more experienced Black, and it ended up pretty badly for him.
Black caught Embiid out of position and posterized him viciously, causing the crowd to go nuts and laugh at the rookie. It was a moment so traumatic that it made Embiid want to leave on the first plane out and never walk on the court again. It got so bad that the 7'2'' monster in the making thought he couldn't hang and wanted to red-shirt the year. Luckily for Embiid, the coaches would convince him otherwise and give him faith that he can make it.
“I got dunked on so hard that I almost quit. 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 all over me so hard everything went in slow motion.”
Joel Embiid, USA Today
Embiid admitted that the fact the entire women's basketball team was watching it happen, and laughing with the rest of the crowd didn't help. Who would have thought that back in 2013, someone as good and confident like Joel Embiid got his spirits broken so hard by one dunk that he felt he couldn't play at the college level. Thankfully, in the end, that day fueled him to become better and be the player he is today. I guess sometimes you have to learn things the hard way.