The brand announced today that it has signed Philadelphia 76ers forward Joel Embiid.
But the baller, a product of Cameroon, said in a statement that his deal with UA is about more than just shoes and basketball. (Although he did promise that his sneakers with the brand would be “as pretty as I am.”)
“When you come to America from Africa, you almost expect that everything is going to be perfect. You expect that most people have an easy life. But when I came to Philly, I saw that there’s real poverty here, too. There’s a real struggle, too,” Embiid wrote in a statement.
He continued, “I’m going to be working on some big things with Under Armour. I got a few surprises coming for the Philly community, and for the rest of the world.”
In a statement from Under Armour, Embiid shared a condensed version of his basketball journey, from childhood to arriving in the NBA.
“I had played like zero organized basketball in my entire life. … Whenever my mom went to buy groceries or something, I’d sneak away and go shoot at the park for a minute, and that was it. But since I was so tall, this coach spotted me and got me an invite to Luc Mbah a Moute’s basketball camp. That’s a big deal in Cameroon,” Embiid wrote.
The journey from Cameroon to the NBA, Embiid detailed, went quickly. He said it took him roughly three years to become a pro.
Shortly after he was drafted by the 76ers, Embiid said his brother, Arthur, was killed in a car accident. And it was his brother’s benevolence back home, giving neighborhood kids who needed help things such as food or clothes, that served as inspiration for his desire to become more than a star athlete.
“After he passed, I kept telling myself that my life had to be about more than just basketball. I got this chance to come to America and play in the NBA and experience all these things, but what my brother was doing back home was actually helping people’s lives,” Embiid wrote. “When I sat down with Under Armour, one of the first things we talked about was how this can be bigger than just shoes, bigger than just basketball. I want to help change people’s lives like Luc changed my life.”
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