After the United States Men’s National Basketball Team fell short of expectations at the FIBA World Cup, many are throwing up the bat signal and wondering whether or not Joel Embiid will answer the battle cry ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics.
USMNBT falls short
The United States Men’s National Basketball Team didn’t showcase their top available talent in the 2023 FIBA World Cup, and it resulted in a disappointing finish for the country. The USMNBT fell short of a bronze medal in a loss to the Canadian squad yesterday.
The main reason why the U.S. couldn’t bring home gold this year? Their lack of size. The 2023 FIBA iteration of the Men’s National Team only featured four true bigs: Jaren Jackson Jr., Bobby Portis, Walker Kessler, and Paolo Banchero. Only one of them is a full-time center, and he was a rookie last season.
As such, the U.S. was routinely bullied both on the boards and in the paint due to their size disadvantage, and it cost them a shot at another world title. Steve Kerr and the rest of the national team coaching staff are unlikely to make the same mistake again, as they should have plenty of viable centers available for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. One name that they should be campaigning for hard is an unfamiliar one to U.S. basketball: reigning MVP, Joel Embiid.
Where will Joel Embiid pledge his alliegence?
Hailing from Cameroon and a previous citizen of France, Joel Embiid has his choices in front of him for the Olympics. He could choose to play for the home team next summer, forming a supersized squad with Rudy Gobert and, likely, generational prospect Victor Wembenyama. With those three rostered, France should have a decent chance of upsetting the U.S. even at full strength, as the red, white, and blue have historically struggled against teams with spectacular size in international play.
This was apparent in the 2023 FIBA tournament, especially in their upset loss against Lithuania, when the U.S. struggled to hold Jonas Valanciunas in check. The idea of joining a French squad with plenty of NBA talent including two massive teammates in Gobert and Wemby should be an appealing one to Embiid, giving him the possibility of upsetting some of his most talented peers in his Olympics debut to win gold for the host country. This would be an unprecedented success story; one that could make for an inspirational documentary someday. That kind of potential glory is hard to turn down.
On the other hand, Joel Embiid could swoop in to save United States basketball like Thor summoning the Bifrost to turn the tides of the Infinity War. The U.S. clearly needs more size on both ends of the court, and while they could settle for Bam Adebayo, Jarrett Allen, or another U.S. citizen to man the paint, there’s no better answer than the MVP himself.
Grant Hill, Managing Director for Team USA, certainly thinks that Joel Embiid joining the U.S. is a real possibility: “I’ve had some discussions with him, and he knows our desire to have him a part of our program. So we’ll see sort of where that goes.”
A rags-to-riches immigrant leading the global basketball powerhouse back to the top, fending off the myriad of countries looking to humble America would be an incredible story in and of itself.
But, of course, there’s no place like home. And while Joel Embiid might have two of the most storied countries in basketball history vying for his services, neither has a better pitch than his Cameroon.
Standing at the podium to receive a gold medal either for the greatest basketball country in the world or the host country of the entire Olympics would be an incredible honor, one that no one could ever take away from Embiid. But winning it all for either the United States or France wouldn’t compare to even just suiting up alongside his true countrymen of Cameroon.
The Cameroonian National Team hasn’t qualified for the 2024 Summer Olympics quite yet, but they have qualified for the chance to qualify through the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments in early 2024. This squad has already defied odds by getting to this point. They may very well fall short, but if they do make the Olympics, for the first time in history, it should be pretty difficult for Joel Embiid to spurn them.
AP Photo/Matt Marton