Reigning NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid said Thursday he has pledged to play for the United States at next year’s Paris Olympics.
Embiid was also eligible to play international basketball for Cameroon and France but has instead opted to join what is expected to be a star-studded Olympic squad.
ESPN reported that the Yaounde-born Embiid confirmed his decision early on Thursday to Team USA executive director Grant Hill.
Embiid, 29, joins an array of NBA stars who have signalled their intention to play in the Olympics as the Americans aim to bounce back from their failure to medal at the FIBA World Cup in August.
LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Steph Curry all said this week they aim to be part of the US squad which will be chasing a fifth consecutive Olympic gold medal in Paris.
Speaking to reporters during a Sixers training session on Thursday, Embiid said he had opted to play for his adopted homeland due to “family” considerations and an overwhelming desire to play in the Olympics.
“It was tough. Obviously, I love all three options,” Embiid said. “You know with my own country, which I love, a lot.
“But I really wanted to participate in an Olympics. That’s been my goal and my dream.”
Embiid, who has lived in the US since he was 16, added that the birth of his son Arthur in 2020, who is a US citizen, had also influenced his decision.
“You add that with the fact that my son is American, and that I’ve been here for such a long time. I just felt like, that for the past few years ever since he was born, every decision I’ve made is based on family,” Embiid said.
“Having the chance to represent the US, and my son being born here…ultimately I really wanted to play in the Olympics.”
Embiid’s availability for the Olympics gives the US squad another formidable weapon in a line-up that will start as overwhelming favourites for the gold medal.
The 7ft (2.13m) 280lb (127kg) giant was virtually unplayable last season, averaging 33.1 points per game with 10.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists.