The Los Angeles Lakers have long reigned as the premier brand in the National Basketball Association, with a presence and fandom that expresses across the globe. Whether during ‘Showtime’, the Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O’Neal dynasty or during Bryant’s second championship run, fans across the world got to witness the top level of basketball.
That fandom inspired the next generation of basketball, including the crop of players that have just entered the NBA. From Lonzo Ball to De’Aaron Fox, these players grew up watching Bryant dominate the NBA with his impeccable arsenal. That also holds true for Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid, even though he didn’t grow up in the United States.
The Cameroon native quickly turned into an NBA project as he got closer to being eligible for the draft, not playing basketball until he reached his teenage years. During an interview with Clay Skipper of GQ, Embiid stated that his love for the game of basketball started with Bryant and the Lakers:
It’s hard to watch basketball over there because it comes on at like two or three in the morning. I started liking basketball when I was 13, but I couldn’t play because my dad thought it was too physical. I would try to watch it, but it was too late and the next day I had to go to school, so my mom never really allowed me. The first time I watched basketball was in 2010. The Lakers [in] the Finals. And that’s where I fell in love with basketball. That’s how I became a Kobe fan and a Lakers fan.
Alas, Embiid would go on to be drafted third overall by the 76ers during the 2014 NBA Draft. He has quickly turned into an NBA sensation, whether fans are talking about his skills on the court or for his hilarious antics on social media.
Embiid has been linked to Lonzo Ball and the Lakers during his short time in the NBA, whether taking shots at Lonzo or talking about the Big Baller Brand. Although he grew up as a Lakers fan, it seems as though he has turned on the team now that they are opposing rivals both in the rebuilding process.
After posting 20.2 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 2.5 blocks during his first season in the NBA, the 76ers decided to fully invest in the big man. Both parties agreed to a five-year, $148 million deal, with incentives that could lead to $30 million more.