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Sixers’ Joel Embiid wants to be the 1st African player to be deemed ‘best in the world’

Joel Embiid, Sixers

Joel Embiid is hoping to transcend how today’s African player is viewed in the NBA, not only as a capable player with star potential but as the best player in the league.

The Philadelphia 76ers big man has very high aspirations, including winning the Most Valuable Player award, Defensive Player of the Year, and leading his team to 60 wins while playing at least 70 games this season. But he also wants to be known as the first African-born player to become the best in the world:

“I want for it to be like, ‘An African player is the best player in the world.’ That’s crazy to think about,” said Embiid, according to Michael Lee of The Athletic. “I don’t think that’s ever happened. I can’t really think of any [team] sports where an African is the best. Even when Hakeem was playing, it was probably MJ, at the time. It would be amazing that that can be said, about an African basketball player.”

Hakeem Olajuwon enjoyed his stint as the best in the world in the mid-’90s, becoming the first player not born in the United States to be named MVP in 1993-94. The Nigerian born “Dream” was already among the group of players challenging for that award, and he surfaced as the most prominent that season after Michael Jordan retired for the first time.

Embiid looks up to Olajuwon as an idol:

“I would not go a day without watching it once or twice or three times. Every single day. By myself, any time,” Embiid said of a DVD that featured almost 45 minutes of Olajuwon footage. “That’s how I was wired, like, ‘I’ve got to make it.’ ”

Joel Embiid, born in Cameroon, is already challenging for the title of the best center in the league — yet his health has kept him from being that dependable source of offense and defense that can be relied on. If he manages to do so, it may only be a matter of time before the 7-foot behemoth stakes his claim as the best player in the world.