On Sunday, France will play against Croatia in the Final of the 2018 soccer World Cup in Russia. One of their biggest fans might be Joel Embiid, the center of the Philadelphia 76ers, who wished them good luck before the semi-finals.
ALLEZ LES BLEUS!!!!!
— Joel “Do a 180” Embiid??? (@JoelEmbiid) July 10, 2018
It might be nothing out of the ordinary that a basketball player supports a certain team or country, even if they’re not originated from there, but in Embiid’s case it might signify an important decision in his career. The big man was born in Cameroon, left for the US at 16, but never played an international game for his home country. A couple of years ago, Embiid was approached by the French National Basketball Organization to ask him whether he was interested in playing for the French team. So far, Embiid hasn’t made a decision, but he called it ‘a good opportunity’.
For some, including a couple of French internationals, it’s a strange step, as Embiid has no ties with France at all. But, naturalizing players has become the new normal in international basketball. Several countries have decided to naturalize international players, mostly Americans, to strengthen their team and be able to compete better.
If Embiid decides to be naturalized to play for France, he’ll join the likes of Anthony Randolph, who was playing in Spain, when the Slovenian’s decided they needed to add a center to their team. Their choice was Randolph, and even though he never played or lived in Slovenia, he received a passport within months and was naturalized in time for Eurobasket 2017.