Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers, who recently gained U.S. citizenship, says “it’s a blessing to be an American.”
Embiid, who is from the central African country of Cameroon, completed the U.S. citizenship process this summer. Embiid, who lives in the U.S. with his girlfriend and two-year-old son, told the Associated Press he felt inspired to go through the process for his family and for his love for America.
“I’ve been here for a long time,” Embiid said. “My son is American. I felt like, I’m living here and it’s a blessing to be an American. So I said, why not?”
Embiid was sworn in as a citizen in September.
The 28-year-old 76ers center player was born and raised in Yaoundé, Cameroon, but moved to the U.S. in 2011 at 16-years-old, Sports Illustrated reported in 2016. He came to America with the hope of starting his basketball career.
In America, Embiid was able to play basketball for Montverde Academy in Florida, and then for the Kansas University Jayhawks.
In 2014, Embiid entered the NBA draft and was picked up by the 76ers despite being ruled out of any potential play for months due to a foot injury. Around the time Embiid was recovering from his injury, his brother Arthur, who was still living in Cameroon, died in a car crash.
Despite those career challenges, Embiid did not give up. In his 2016 interview with Sports Illustrated, he said “My life is like a movie,” one where the main character pushes forward despite the odds.
In 2015, as the 76ers went through a tough rebuilding effort, Philadelphia general manager Sam Hinkie rolled out his rebuilding strategy, which he dubbed “The Process.”
Embiid has embraced Hinkie’s strategy on a personal level.
“I think a lot about what I went through and how it prepared me to be a better man,” Embiid told Sports Illustrated in 2016. “I really feel like I’m ‘The Process,’ like ‘The Process’ is about me.”
Embiid has been in a relationship with Brazilian model Anne de Paula since 2018. The pair has one child together.
Embiid isn’t the first NBA player to praise America for the opportunities he’s had. Since becoming a U.S. citizen, NBA player Enes Kanter changed his name to “Freedom” and has been outspoken in his praise of America and his criticism of communist China.