France national men’s basketball team general manager Boris Diaw remains confident that Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center Joel Embiid will play for Les Bleus despite Embiid recently gaining U.S. citizenship.
Diaw said Tuesday that Embiid became a U.S. citizen, a possible step toward representing the U.S. in international basketball, because it made it easier for him to reside in the U.S., according to French reports.
Embiid’s decision to play for France, the U.S. or his native Cameroon leading up to the 2024 Paris Games is the current leading topic in Olympic men’s basketball. He has never played in a major international tournament and has not yet publicly committed to any national team.
In late September, when Embiid publicly revealed he added U.S. citizenship to his French nationality, he said it was way too early to think about his international basketball status.
“I just want to be healthy and win a championship and go from there,” he said then, according to The Associated Press.
Embiid, 28, was born in Cameroon. Since he has yet to play for Cameroon’s national team, it may be easier for him to become eligible to play for a different country through FIBA.
In July, Embiid gained French nationality, a step toward being able to represent the host nation at the 2024 Paris Games. Before that, Diaw was quoted saying that Embiid had started the process to become eligible to play for France.
Then Embiid revealed his U.S. citizenship while also not yet committing to any national team. That revelation hasn’t changed Diaw’s public stance.
Embiid was second in NBA MVP voting last season behind Serbian Nikola Jokic. He was the All-NBA second team center.
What nation Embiid represents could have a major impact on the Paris Games.
In Tokyo, a French team led by another center, Rudy Gobert, handed the U.S. its first Olympic defeat since 2004. That was in group play. The Americans then beat the French in the gold-medal game 87-82.
That France team had five NBA players to the U.S.’ 12: Nicolas Batum, Evan Fournier, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Frank Ntilikina and Gobert. France has another 7-footer, 18-year-old Victor Wembanyama, who is expected to be the No. 1 pick in next year’s NBA Draft.
Anthony Davis, who skipped the Tokyo Olympics, is the lone U.S. center to make an All-NBA team in the last five seasons. In that time, Embiid made four All-NBA second teams and Gobert made three All-NBA third teams.
No Olympic team other than the U.S. has ever had two reigning All-NBA players on its roster.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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