Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid is one of the most dominant big men in the league. The 24-year-old is a legit 7-footer that plays basketball like a guard, and that might be because he grew up idolizing Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant.
In a post on The Players’ Tribune, Embiid covered an array of topics, including his love for Bryant and his most memorable encounter with the future Hall of Famer, in which Kobe gave him a little advice:
“The most surreal moment was when Kobe was retiring, and he played his last game in Philly. After the game, they set up a little room for us to talk for a minute. He walked in, and I shook his hand and I told him, “Man, I know you probably hear this a lot, but I literally started playing basketball because of you seven years ago. Whenever I’d be shooting the ball at the park, I’d be yelling out, ‘KOBEEEEEE!’ ”
He laughed and we talked for a minute, and then before he left he said the most Kobe thing. To most people, it wouldn’t mean anything. But to me, it was surreal. It was like I was in a video game or something.
He said, in the most Kobe way, “O.K., young fella. Keep working. Keep working.”
Bryant saw the story from Embiid and reiterated the same advice to him on Twitter:
Keep working young fella. https://t.co/H93PU87hp2— Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant) August 31, 2018
In his story, Embiid mentions that his first exposure to basketball was watching Bryant, Pau Gasol and LaMar Odom go against [REDACTED] and the Orlando Magic in the 2009 NBA Finals. It was also the young Cameroonian’s first taste of life in the United States.
After watching his first game of round ball, Embiid knew what he wanted to do for the rest of his life:
“That was my exposure to American culture — Bow Wow, Kanye and Kobe. Sometimes I’d go to this court by my house where guys would play pickup, and every time I’d shoot the ball, I’d literally yell out, “KOBE!”
Imagine it. I’m out there shooting bricks, yelling out Kobe, on a busted hoop in Cameroon.
Seven years later, I was playing Kobe.
It’s a movie. It’s really a movie.”
Embiid, Ben Simmons and the 76ers will be one of the teams the Lakers will have to go through on their way to the top. While Bryant did grow up in Philadelphia, and is even a die-hard Philadelphia Eagles fan, Bryant has made it clear is a Lakers fan for life.
That doesn’t change the fact that Embiid is just latest of the long list of players that have come into the NBA over the past few years that grew up idolizing Bryant. Some have even reached out to Bryant to workout alongside him, like Kyle Kuzma and Jayson Tatum.
Bryant has more than his fair share of critics, but there’s no denying the influence he’s had on the next generation of rising stars in the NBA. Hopefully, at least a few of them will suit up for the purple and gold one day.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.