The French national basketball team is actively recruiting Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid for the 2024 Olympics, which will take place in Paris. Embiid is a citizen of France and just recently became a U.S. citizen, so the two time NBA MVP runner-up can chose to play for either country. His decision could shape the medal round.
“Now he has both nationalities, and he has to choose one basketball nationality, which is not the same,” France national team head coach Vincent Collet told The Associated Press. “So, that is a choice. Nobody can do anything to change it.”
France is the reigning Olympic silver medalist, the reigning EuroBasket silver medalist and the reigning FIBA World Cup bronze medalist. They are the fifth-ranked team in the world, according to FIBA rankings.
Adding Embiid would be huge both literally and figuratively.
If the 7-foot-1 Embiid played for France, Collet could theoretically play a front line of Victor Wembanyama (7’4), Embiid, and Rudy Gobert (7’1). That’s a lot of rebounding, rim protection, and yes shooting.
Should team USA be worried? In a word, yes.
Basketball is a global game and the United States no longer lays claim to the only producers of top basketball talent. The last two NBA MVPs are foreign born (Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo). They’ve won the last four, both going back-to-back.
The all-in-one basketball stat EPM which tells us how your team performs when you are on the floor relative to the competition, has four foreign born players in the top-10. Including Embiid (second) and Gobert (10th).
Team France defeated Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics opener in 2021. Now, Team USA got its revenge, defeating France in the gold medal game, but it wasn’t a blowout victory. France made the U.S. earn it.
Team France eliminated Team USA in the 2019 FIBA World Cup, denying the Americans a medal chance as they finished outside the top four.
Bottom line is Team France isn’t afraid of Team USA, and they boast a lot of NBA players used to playing together all the time and used to FIBA rules.
Adding Embiid to that squad makes France, already an excellent team, an even better one. A real threat to win the gold medal. Team USA would have a very difficult time matching up with that size, and with FIBA rules allowing the big men to take the ball off the rim, that’s easy pickings for the French.
Nothing has been decided yet and Embiid has said it’s too early to think about 2024.
“I just want to be healthy and win a championship and go from there,” he told the AP.
Embiid was born in Cameroon and holds French citizenship so he is eligible to play for either team. Add in NBA veterans Nicolas Batum, Evan Fournier and a group of experienced international players and you can see the excitement.
“I know he met some of our players to discuss,” Collet said. “I think he should play with us. But we will see. We will respect his decision whatever it is.”
Team USA and the rest of the world will be watching.