Cameroonian professional basketball player Joel Embiid, who plays for the American team, Philadelphia 76ers, has committed to playing for Team USA for the 2024 Summer Olympics. This decision has upset many Cameroonian and international fans.
Embiid announced his decision via X on Thursday, October 6, writing,
“I’m really proud and excited about this decision. It was not easy. I am blessed to call Cameroon, France, and the USA home. After talking to my family, I knew it had to be Team USA. I want to play with my brothers in the league. I want to play for my fans because they’ve been incredible since the day I came here. But most of all, I want to honor my son who was born in the US. I want my boy to know I played my first Olympics for him.”
This contradicts an early indication that he would play for France.
Born in Yaoundé, Embiid also holds French citizenship; however, he spent much of his young adult life in the US. He went to high school in Florida, played college basketball for the University of Kansas, and has now been playing for the 76ers for the entirety of his professional career.
He was approached by the US, Cameroon, and France to play for their national teams. France, in particular, was hoping to have Embiid play for them as they are the ones hosting the games next year.
The fact that Cameroon’s basketball team has not yet qualified, according to Embiid, was a factor in his decision. The team last made it to the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in 2008 however after winning its first-ever continental title this year they are now among 24 teams who will compete for the final four spots in the 12-team roster.
While many praised Embiid’s statement some criticized his decision highlighting that his choosing to play for his home country could have been an opportunity to increase international recognition for talented basketball players in Cameroon and across Africa.
Reactions from Fans
One fan who goes by the name @MarieMaMadre on X said, “On the other hand, I don’t understand why there are French people who are angry that Joël Embiid chooses Team USA. It is the Cameroonians who should be angry; he was born in Cameroon and learned basketball there. In sporting terms, he has nothing to do with France”
Another person, @AbdelgardirJihan wrote, “Very disappointing in your decision. Real athlete and role models need to be proud to play for their mother country. You already have the fame and money in USA playing in NBA, you don’t need to play internationally for them. What did you give back to your own country? Shame on all these athletes not playing for their home countries especially these AFRICAN players.”
“Cameroon has produced two huge NBA All-Star players (Pascal Siakam and Joel Embiid), but neither plays for the Cameroon national team. Paradox and sadness,” said @Romain_Molina.
@MalikDubNation also had this to say, “There is a world where Cameroon (qualified for the TQO) and Joël Embiid both play the 2024 Olympic Games but in different jerseys. It is not with this mentality that African basketball will progress.”