MVP Joel Embiid has become a national hero in Cameroon as young players find him ‘a huge inspiration’ in their dreams of becoming pros
After two consecutive years of being the runner-up of the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award, Sixers star Joel Embiid finally reached his dream of holding the trophy himself last month, as he expressed many times how important it was for him to inspire young talents in his native Cameroon.
“I have always felt like I was a role model, especially to my Cameroonian and African people,” he told the press. “Just looking at my story they can look at it and be like ‘wow, he did it.’”
Joel Embiid, a professional basketball player from Cameroon, is awarded the Michael Jordan Trophy as the 2023 Kia NBA's Most Valuable Player.
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Embiid’s 33.1 points per game average this season proved to be part of the reasons why his displays were superior to Nikola Jokic’s, especially as this was the second time in a row that the center led as the league’s top scorer.
The Sixers star, who left Cameroon in 2012 to follow his dreams of becoming a professional athlete, is just the second African to recieve this honor after Nigeria’s idol Hakeem Olajuwon earned the accolade in 1994.
“Joe didn’t have the chance to play in the NBA because of injuries but he opened the door to Cameroonians in the league,” said the former player and head of Communication of the Cameroon Basketball Federation Yves Tsala.
Tsala, an old teammate of Embiid’s uncle, always saw the potential in young Embiid, even though he wasn’t sure if he’d become a volleyball athlete back when he was a teenager.
“It is after that season that we had the Luc Mbah a Moute camp where Embiid was selected and invited for the Basketball Without Borders programme in Johannesburg,” Tsala told the press.
So, at age 16, the Cameroonian embarked on a voyage to the United States, only to be drafted two years later by the Pennsylvania franchise.
Cameroon is now one of the most represented African countries in the NBA, especially after Pascal Siakam was drafted by the Raptors in 2016, and six years later Toronto also picked Christian Koloko.
The younger generation of Cameroonian basketball talents now know the dream is possible to achieve
A 19-year-old small foward called James Amasoka is one of the brightest stars in the Cameroonian men’s national basketball championship, and now he dreams about making it to the NBA after looking at Embiid lift the Michael Jordan trophy.
“It’s a huge inspiration to us Cameroonian basketball players,” said the six-foot-five young adult, after guiding his country to qualify for the 2023 FIBA AfroCan.
“Joel has really motivated us. We now know there is a bigger opportunity for more Cameroonians to play in the NBA,” he added.
However, young girls are also profiting from the inspiration set by the Sixers center, as Leila Mbiyzenyuy, a four-time winner of the national women’s basketball championship, talked about the new-found courage she feels.
“Seeing an African, especially a Cameroonian, becoming the best basketball player in the world gives me more courage at this stage of my basketball to push forward. I may one day play in a pro league or WNBA in the US,” she told the press.
At 24-years of age, the foward for the Overdose Yaoundé is sure she can still make it into elite basketball.
“My projection for the coming years is to show my talent out of the country. I know only talent and consistency can take me there,” she affirmed.
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