Joel Embiid with the Blues: Six Questions for an Intriguing Naturalization

A file that drags, then finally the explosion of a bomb. On Monday night, French basketball went to bed with dreams and questions in mind. RMC Sport had just announced that Joel Embiid had started the administrative procedures to obtain French nationality, reopening the doors to participation in the next major competitions (World Cup 2023, Olympics 2024) with the French team. The hypothesis had already made its way in 2018, before falling as a souffle.

But this time the intentions of the Philadelphia 76ers’ pivot, currently in the middle of the play-offs, seem much more concrete, as confirmed by Blues manager Boris Diaw. The fantasy of having one of the best players in the world with the tricolor jersey could therefore see the light, if the procedures are successful, and if the contacts between the player and the management of the selection remain positive. So many ifs and at least as many questions about what could take the Olympic runners-up to another dimension.


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Will Joel Embiid be able to play for France one day?

Yes, in any case nothing legally prevents him from speaking. If the Cameroonian stud obtains French nationality, Embiid would be available to play with the tricolor selection. The interior has never evolved with a national team. His native Cameroon has been flirting with him for several years and hoped to turn him into a gondola head for his selection and, more generally, for African basketball. The same player said in 2018, the date of the first rumors about his choice for the national team, “i want to play for my country“.”If I have a choice to make, it will be Cameroon first, if there is a good picture, because that’s where I come from.“he affirmed to BasketUSA. There was also the possibility of joining Team USA, he who could benefit from the passport for having lived in the territory for several years.

The International Basketball Federation authorizes each selection to field a naturalized player in an official competition.

What are the links between Joel Embiid and France?

To this day, they remain rather subtle. The Yaoundé native has never played in France, neither professionally nor during his training. INSEP could have welcomed Embiid in his youth, but the player had finally taken over the United States at the age of 16. The pivot speaks French and has a family in France. “Love France“assured the president of the French basketball federation, Jean-Pierre Siutat, in 2018. Proof of this is that the first discussions between the FFBB and the Phily All-Star date back to 2016”, said Patrick Beesley, former DTN of the French basketball.

Why is this naturalization debated?

The very question of players evolving with passports obtained during their career has been under discussion for many years in European basketball. Many selections took advantage of the regulation to field players who, for some, had never set foot in the country in question before wearing the colors. Leader Bo McCalebb had led Macedonia to the Euro 2011 semi-finals, when the selection had never fared better than the main round of the competition. Slovenia took the 2017 title to everyone’s surprise with American Anthony Randolph in their ranks. The former NBA player had obtained his passport a few weeks before the competition “to get more exposure in a major tournament“he explained to The Undefeated.

The French team had also long regretted having fallen in Spain, integrated by the Congolese internal Serge Ibaka, then by Nikola Mirotic, of Montenegrin origin, in the 2010s.

Serge Ibaka with the Spanish selection, against the French of Florent Pietrus, here during a friendly match on 10 July 2012

Credit: Getty Images

What do the players think of France?

If he were to complete Vincent Collet’s workforce, the first challenge facing Joel Embiid would be his integration. His case is far from unanimous among the ranks of the double world bronze medalists. Already in 2018, the reluctance had already been widely heard. Anthology:

For me, playing for a country you have no ties to is creepy. It bothers me when the other selections do, so it goes for the Blues. ” Evan Fournier

In federations, we work hard to get young people to work, for example, and I find that a little bit of authenticity is lacking when doing things like that. In the national team, you should play with the players from the country, who grew up there. “Tony Parker, to the Team

I’m against naturalized people.“Nicola Batum

Four years later, the languages ​​are equally fluent. If Evan Fournier, never stingy with opinions, asked for a little patience to get his opinion on his return from vacation, other players followed suit with skepticism.

Host of the First Team, leader Andrew Albicy made no secret of his opinion. “I speak on my behalf but I think there are many people in the team who think the same way: we would not want Embiid to join the team because he does not represent France, “our France”. He was not trained in France, he has nothing French except family and the fact that he speaks French. […] We can go very far with this team without having to fetch an American, a Cameroonian or someone else to win the world title.

As a good captain, Nicolas Batum is more measured. The Los Angeles Clippers player evaluates the pros and cons in the columns of L’Equipe. “I can understand that it is ethically disturbing, but from a basketball point of view … I put myself on both sides: player-captain, but also a fan! And an Embiid-Gobert racket, damn it! So here it is, ethically, I get it, but “basketball” …“While adding a sine qua non:”The group must be in place.“This, while one of the players present during recent campaigns like Guerschon Yabusele or Amath M’Baye may have to leave his post, and Rudy Gobert sees his role diminished.”Respect for Rudy, where is he? And the others who make sacrifices for France every summer? questioned (rebellious?) Evan Fournier in 2018.

What could Joel Embiid bring to Les Bleus?

Without wanting to deny the glorious history of the orange-white-red ball, the hypothesis of seeing Joel Embiid in the tricolor jersey is enough to make your mouth water as the player’s talent is enormous. The Blues have never counted in their ranks a player of this level, of NBA MVP caliber and top scorer of the season (30.6 points per game).

In a team where the sign is fueled primarily by the baselines, with Evan Fournier at the forefront, Embiid’s contribution close to the circle would offer offensive options any selection would dream of. Technique, shooting quality, power, game intelligence … The 28-year-old player is a rare specimen.

If it were to evolve for the French team, its use would still become more difficult than it seems. Embiid evolves in the same position as Rudy Gobert, the keystone of the selection for several years and his finest individual business card. If the two players have a very different style, making them coexist could create problems of space on the ground, as well as mobility in a basketball that tends more and more to the smallest five.

Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz) and Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers), future teammates of the Blues?

Credit: Getty Images

Could it be the first time for France?

With the Embiid case, some refuse to proceed with the same tricks that many other nations have taken advantage of in recent years. It is also a bit early to forget that the Sixers pivot situation is far from new. The French team regularly relies on naturalized players from the 1970s and changes to the law regarding nationality, but also to international basketball regulations.

From the Togolese pioneer Firmin Onissah in 1973 to Joakim Noah (who had participated in Euro 2011), the Blues also benefited from these double passports. And some names like Appolo Faye or Crawford Palmer, silver medalist at Sydney 2000, have found a real place in the history of French selection. Recently, trial and error of the Joel Embiid file had prompted the FFBB to dig the Youssoupha Fall trail, which was ultimately halted as the current giant ASVEL had evolved with Senegal’s young selections.

The French women’s team also benefits from naturalization, from the Americans Bria Hartley or Gabby Williams, Americans of French origin, or the Beninese Isabelle Yacoubou. Without the topic dividing so much. This is also the Joel Embiid effect.


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