By Keith Pompey/The Philadelphia Inquirer
For Joel Embiid, all the money he agreed to in his contract is not just about getting rich. The 76ers center has something else that’s always on his mind. It’s his native country of Cameroon, which can use his help.
“Over there, there’s a lot of poverty,” Embiid said Tuesday, one day after signing a five-year, $148 million contract extension. “A lot of people don’t have a lot of stuff.”
So the 23-year-old is elated that he’ll have money to go toward his foundation, run by his parents back home, that helps people in need.
The Cameroonians and his family are the main reasons Embiid didn’t walk away from basketball after his younger brother, Arthur, was killed in an accident on October 14, 2014 back home.
“I feel like I need to do a lot of stuff over there,” he said of using his money gained from the lucrative contract.
He is expected to give fans in Long Island a glimpse of why the Sixers are heavily invested in him in Wednesday’s preseason game against the Brooklyn Nets at the Nassau Coliseum. Embiid is listed as probable for the matchup after missing the first three preseason games while rehabilitating from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee.
But Sixers fans can mainly thank Embiid’s loyalty to his late brother for remaining a basketball player. He wanted to make Arthur proud. He also wanted to make his family proud. These days, his mother, Christine, has to be beaming. Embiid signed his extension on her birthday. He thinks “that was the best birthday gift ever.”
Embiid received the maximum salary based on the designated rookie scale. He could earn $178 million if he meets the super-max criteria, which includes making an all-NBA team or being named league MVP.
The deal, however, is heavily salary-cap protected should Embiid miss significant playing time because of injuries. Even if only 50 percent of his contract is guaranteed, the big man will still walk away with $74 million.
“I would term it shared risk,” Sixers president Bryan Colangelo, declining to disclose the protections.
“I talk about finding the common ground. We have found the common. Again, I fully anticipate and hope we are paying the entirety of the contract.”
Embiid never envisioned eventually receiving a max-extension when he arrived in America back in 2011. Back then, Embiid was around 100 pounds lighter than his current weight of 285 pounds.
He was a high school junior at Montverde Academy (Fla.), playing on the junior varsity team. In actuality, he has played in only three of his six seasons in which he’s been involved with organized basketball.
As a Sixer, Embiid played in only 31 games last season before the team announced on March 1 that he would need season-ending knee surgery. His last game was January 27.
He missed the previous two seasons because of two surgeries to repair the navicular bone in his right foot.
He also had a stress fracture in his back that kept him out of the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments during his lone season at Kansas in 2013-14. However, he is the unquestioned leader of the Sixers. He’s also the main piece in what the team hopes will turn into an Eastern Conference title contender in a couple of seasons.
“Joel is a special basketball player, but he’s a special human being; he’s a special person,” said Colangelo, who began contract discussions with Embiid’s representation on July 1.
“You see just the way the team responds to him, the way the fans respond to him. He’s one of these types that don’t come along often.
“Again, we are talking about both what he does on the court, but what he also does off the court. He means a lot to what this organisation has gone through.”
Embiid expects to mean a lot to the organisation for a long time. His goal is to remain a Sixer his entire career. His goal is to play his entire career for one team like Kobe Bryant did for the Los Angeles Lakers from 1996-97 through 2015-16.
He has a love affair with Sixers fans that’s hard to explain. He wants to continue rewarding them for their support.
“I don’t think without them I get this extension,” Embiid said. “They did a lot for me. Even though, I don’t think they know that, they pushed me a lot.”
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