It’s much more than the new face of the Sixers franchise as Joel Embiid has quickly become a true NBA star. A player capable of changing the outcome of a meeting but also of bringing together a lot of expectation and passion around him. Approaching him is no small feat, but Basket USA has gone to meet the “Indomitable Lion”, precisely to talk about football, the number 1 sport in Cameroon.
This loss to a great Cavs team shows how far your team has yet to go to become the best in the Eastern Conference one day
I think we didn’t play very well. OK, they’re a great team, they haven’t played the last three NBA Finals for nothing, but tonight we haven’t played at our level. Defensively, we made too many mistakes. Faced with such a team made up of very good players, it is not forgiving. Offensively, we didn’t pass the ball as usual. It’s our style of play, our identity though. Move the ball, find the open partner and offer shots to our shooters. Tonight we had no success, only three successful 3-pointers (out of 28). We missed this address to stay longer in the game. It is thanks to our 3-point success that we have recently won meetings and are well placed in the conference.
“The Cavaliers spanked us”
And in a personal capacity?
For me, defensively, it was a little weird. Usually I am in the racket to defend on the opposing pivots. At home, their interiors spend their time at 3-point, so it’s complicated for me. They kick me out of the racket, and I’m no longer there to deter shots, to protect the racket. LeBron took the opportunity to hurt us with his drive quality.
Nevertheless, this defeat must and will make your team grow and remain above all a young team?
Yes, they spanked us. It’s up to us to learn from this kind of game. We didn’t put our shots, we weren’t aggressive in defense. It’s like that. Everyone was excited to play this game, me first. It’s the kind of game I like to play. I don’t like losing and tonight I’m disappointed, like the whole team, but it’s a good loss. It shows us that we can’t take days off. We cannot relax. We must continue to work, continue to grow as a team and that goes through work. This is how we will become the best.
Once again, you have shown tremendous determination on the court. Is it your “Indomitable Lion” side that makes you jump on all the balls?
Yes (laughs), I am Cameroonian, it should not be forgotten. It’s part of me. I’m a fighter, I believe that’s my nature. I missed two years of basketball. That’s a lot two years. For two years, I couldn’t do what I love the most in the world. But today I’m back. I want to play, I want to win. I want to do everything to help my team win. When I’m on the pitch, I give everything I have in me. It’s like that. I play basketball, I have fun, that’s what I love. I want to play so if I have to go and dive into the feet of my opponents to win games, then I will dive, without any problem.
“I asked Griezmann if he was going to watch the game”
Diving is usually reserved for football. In Cameroon, football is the number 1 sport, and we can see that you are a big fan of this sport…
Yes, it is a national sport. I love football, I love Real Madrid. I had the chance to meet the players, watch the Champions League final last year and watch them win. It was great. I am very close to Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann.
In the media, do you think you are the equivalent of Roger Milla, Patrick Mboma or Samuel Eto’o today?
I think it’s different. As I said, at home, football remains number one. These three players are idols, my idols. At home, they don’t have the opportunity to watch the games. In Europe, it goes very late, two or three in the morning. I spoke to Griezmann earlier, he wished me luck with the game, and I asked him if he was going to watch the game. But I think he couldn’t because the NBA games are late. I don’t know what he had to do today, whether he had a match or not.
So your popularity remains limited in Cameroon?
I feel like I’m still below, but things are moving forward. I’m in Cameroon this summer, and a lot of people recognized me, asked for photos and autographs, it warmed my heart. You know, it makes me proud to know that I am loved in the country.
Who is your favorite Cameroonian athlete, the one you wanted to look like when you were younger?
Samuel Eto’o, so I started with football before playing volleyball. I had the chance to meet him, to talk to him. In Cameroon, he is a God, he has given us so much happiness. He is one of the best players in the history of African football and the world. So even though I have others, Eto’o remains the greatest in my eyes.
When you landed in the United States from Yaoundé, did the shock had been terrible?
When I arrived in the United States, it was not easy. I arrived here when I was 16. I didn’t know how to play basketball very well and all the guys here were stronger than me. But I held on, I showed perseverance, because I always wanted to be the best. I was far from home, far from my family in a country as big as the United States. I’ve worked hard to be where I am today, but it’s not over, I’m hungry for wins and titles here in Philadelphia.
“To play in national selection? We’ll see… “
And victories in the national team under the colours of Cameroon at the Olympic Games or the World Cup, it is possible?
It’s so complicated. They just changed the rules, and I can’t be there right now. When you are Cameroonian, you want to wear the colours of your country, play in the Olympics or a world championship. But it’s hard. I’m here, I can’t help them qualify for the World Championship or the African Cup. I am following the results, I know they have won two of three games in the last few days, they represent the country well. But if I ever get the chance, then we’ll see.
Lately, we have unfortunately talked about Cameroon with slaves in Libya. It must sadden and revolt you to see that in 2017, there are still such things happening on your continent?
Yes, that’s a shame. It must stop quickly. I think it’s up to me, but also to all African players to tackle this kind of stuff. This is serious, very serious. As you said in 2017, this must not happen again.
Interview in Philadelphia by Anthony Ottou.