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Joel Embiid and the YouTube Generation

posted by Tim Carmody   Aug 31, 2018

Joel Embiid is (probably) the most talented and (easily) the most entertaining young player in the NBA today. It’s really not even close. He’s created a persona that feels like it wasn’t created at all, an unfiltered big kid on a scale we haven’t seen since young Shaquille O’Neal. He’s full of unbridled enthusiasms and trash talk, peppered with charm and feeling, and a kind of canny naïveté. He’s also 7’2,” can jump out of the gym, is already an all-defense lock as long he’s healthy, hits three-pointers, etc. So he’s fun to watch, too.

Unsurprisingly, Joel’s first-person narrative for The Players Tribune is a perfect specimen of Pure Embiid. He writes about his childhood in Cameroon, being unable to watch basketball or sports because his mother was too strict, and piecing together the game from YouTube clips, natural talent, and sheer competitiveness.

So I’m chilling one night, and I go on YouTube, and I’m thinking I’m about to figure this shooting thing out.

I go to the search box like….

HOW TO SHOOT 3 POINTERS.

Nah.

HOW TO SHOOT GOOD FORM

Nah.

Then the light bulb went off, man. I typed in the magic words.

WHITE PEOPLE SHOOTING 3 POINTERS.

Listen, I know it’s a stereotype, but have you ever seen a normal, 30-year-old white guy shoot a three-pointer? That elbow is tucked, man. The knees are bent. The follow-through is perfect. Always. You know how in America, there’s always an older guy wearing like EVERLAST sweat-shorts at the court? That guy is always a problem. His J is always wet.

Thankfully, Embiid also watched plenty of clips of legendary big men like Hakeem Olajuwon, so he doesn’t just chuck up Js like a thirtysomething Duke grad or play nonstop hero ball like his idol Kobe Bryant. That’s the thing about piecing together your game or your personality through YouTube, hip-hop, social media, etc. Ideally, you don’t just get one flavor. You get to sample a little of everything.