According to a report from Yahoo! Sports, former KU center Joel Embiid on Wednesday is poised to finalize a lucrative endorsement deal with Under Armour.
The No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, who missed his first two professional seasons because of injury, has been a rising star — both on and off the court — during recent years.
His play has put him the conversation as one of the top centers in the league and his off-the-court personality — from memorable Tweets to surprise public appearances and everything in between — has made him one of the most marketable stars the NBA currently has.
He will join Golden State guard Steph Curry as the unquestioned stars of the Under Armour brand, which continues to try to carve our space on the same stage with industry leaders Nike and Adidas.
According to the report, Embiid has been spotted wearing Under Armour shoes this preseason, including at 76ers media day.
And he recently discussed with ESPN his thoughts about having a signature shoe, saying, "A lot of people, you know, always have that notion [that] big men can’t sell shoes. When I look at myself … I’m more than a big man. So as far as signature shoes, I’m excited to come and break that.”
Embiid, whose broad shoulders in many ways are built to carry a brand, currently has more than 1.5 million followers on Twitter and nearly twice that many on Instagram, both of which are social media sites where he is extremely active.
The move will complete Embiid's journey to become associated with all three major shoe brands, having been represented by Nike during his prep days at The Rock School in Gainesville, Fla., and by Adidas during his one season at KU.
Unless you've been living in a cave, under a rock or on a different planet, you know by now that former Kansas basketball center Joel Embiid, now one of the brightest shining stars in the NBA with the Philadelphia 76ers, is one of the most entertaining professional athletes on social media.
From flirting with Rihanna to posting videos and pictures of him jogging or playing pickup games on the streets of Phily, Embiid, since turning pro, has never been afraid to put himself out there and share his life and his world with his adoring fans.
On Friday, Embiid took it one step farther by releasing a piece via The Players' Tribune in which he insists that his life is a movie and then goes on and on backing up that claim.
It's equal parts entertaining and eye-rolling and figures to leave you laughing and wishing, yet again, that Embiid had been forced to stay four seasons in college instead of turning pro after just one.
Here are a couple of quick excerpts from the article. But you should definitely carve out a few minutes of your day to go read the whole thing. You won't be disappointed and it's a perfect read for a Friday.
• Embiid on his very first experience with a basketball practice after arriving in the U.S...
"So I went to the practice on the first day, and I was so bad that the coach kicked me out of the gym. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was so skinny, so soft. But the worst part was that all my own teammates were seriously pointing and laughing at me, like the asshole kids in the movies about high school. It was crazy. I’m looking at these dudes, not really understanding what they’re even saying, like, Damn guys, come on, let’s just trust the process here."
• Embiid on where he learned how to shoot that sweet jumper of his...
"Listen, I know it’s a stereotype, but have you ever seen a normal, 30-year-old white guy shoot a 3-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. Those are the guys I learned from on YouTube. Just random people shooting threes with perfect form."
• Embiid on the first NBA game he ever watched...
"The first time I ever watched an NBA game was the 2009 Finals. Lakers vs. Magic. Dwight. Pau. Odom. KOBE. I had never seen anything like that. I was watching those dudes shoot like 100% from the floor. Everything was going in. The way they moved, and the athleticism, I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. I had that moment like, I just wanna do that."
• Embiid on his first experience in the gym at KU...
"My very first scrimmage at Kansas, I got dunked on so hard by Tarik Black that I almost quit. Tarik dunked on me so hard that I was looking at plane tickets home. This guy was a senior. He was a grown man. I didn’t know what was going on. He got his own rebound and dunked over me so hard that everything went in slow motion."
"He dunked the ball off my head, for real. But I didn’t even tell you the worst part. The worst part was that the entire Kansas women’s hoops team was sitting in the bleachers watching the scrimmage. The whole gym was laughing at me. It was crazy. Seriously, it was like a WORLDSTAR situation."
"So I went straight to Bill Self’s office afterward and I said, “I can’t do this. You have to redshirt me. I can’t play with these guys.” And Bill was like, “What? Are you serious? In two years, you’re going to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.”
Self was close, of course. Embiid wound up going No. 3 in the draft and it did not take him two years to get there.
There's so much more color and flare in this story than these few excerpts show. So go read it, enjoy it and be thankful that the world knows who Joel Embiid is.
By now, if you've been a longtime reader of KUsports.com, you know that every once in a while we post various odds that are sent to us from the folks at Bovada.lv, an online betting service that dabbles in all kinds of college and professional sports propositions.
If that sounds famililar at all, you're probably recalling blogs about KU's odds of winning a national championship, Andrew Wiggins' chances of becoming national player of the year or even KU football's low over/under win total.
All of those, and more, have been sent to us and posted on the site during recent years.
Tuesday, I received an email from Bovada outlining the odds for the 2016 NBA Rookie of the Year. Given that the draft just happened and that KU's Kelly Oubre was the highest and only Jayhawk selected, I opened it wondering if his name would be on there and how good or bad his odds might be.
It wasn't. Oubre, who has been touting himself as the greatest player in the draft of late, was nowhere to be found and, obviously, neither was undrafted former Jayhawk Cliff Alexander.
Oubre's omission was not that big of a surprise, but the list remained relevant to KU fans for one other reason. Joel Embiid.
Embiid, the third pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, is listed as a 10-1 pick to be named rookie of the year next season. Those aren't terrible odds, provided Embiid is healthy.
The 7-foot center from Cameroon, of course, missed all of his true rookie season nursing back and foot injuries and, therefore, would qualify for the award if he plays this season and plays well enough to outdo all other candidates. Both are longshots at this point, which is why the 10-1 number was a little surprising.
Here's a quick look at the rest of the list, with Embiid's new teammate, No. 3 overall pick Jahlil Okafor leading the way.
Jahlil Okafor 7/2
D'Angelo Russell 4/1
Karl-Anthony Towns 7/1
Emmanuel Mudiay 7/1
Justise Winslow 9/1
Joel Embiid 10/1
Mario Hezonja 16/1
Willie Cauley-Stein 22/1
Jerian Grant 22/1
Myles Turner 25/1
Sam Dekker 25/1
Frank Kaminsky 25/1
Kristaps Porzingis 25/1
Stanley Johnson 33/1
Cameron Payne 33/1
Trey Lyles 33/1
Devin Booker 33/1
Bobby Portis 33/1
3:15 P.M. UPDATE:
Here are the photo highlights from Wiggins' trip to a local school for an NBA Cares event.
As high as Wiggins flies on the basketball court, jumping rope didn't seem to be part of his regimen — at least not with a rope that short.
2:05 P.M. UPDATE:
About to hey started here at PS III in Manhattan and I was just told that the mayor of NYC will be here to give a speech to the kids and athletes before we get started with the hoops stuff. That explains the extra police presence.
More to come soon.
1:55 P.M. UPDATE
We've arrived at PS 111 in Manattan, where Wiggins and other likely lottery picks will meet with some local kids for an NBA Cares event that includes handing out food from a food truck, a Q & A session and, of course, basketball.
This is always one of the best parts of the draft experience for these guys, many of whom are a little surprised by how much they enjoy the interaction with the kids.
Seems to me like this kind of thing is tailor-made for Wiggins, a big kid himself, and we'll have plenty of photos and videos from his time with the kids. It's a hot day in NYC, and we're on some old school blacktop.
Event should begin shortly...
1:40 P.M. UPDATE:
Jabari Parker and Wiggins were in the same media session, so it was tough to get to them both. I did hear some things from those who spent some time with Parker that seemed to indicate he believes he's going no. 2.
Wiggins was asked about that and didn't have much to say. As of this afternoon, he still said he had no idea what would happen and went out of his way to emphasize that he understands that anything's possible.
That said, he also made no secret of the fact that he wants to go no. 1 — badly. That's just what being a competitor has done to him, he said. "I don't want anyone to be picked ahead of me."
1:25 P.M. UPDATE:
Something that caught me off guard that shouldn't have was the amount of Canadian media here today and number of Canada questions Wiggins was asked.
The young man is proud of his country and really seems to understand that his place in this draft is about much more than one kid. It's about an entire country trying to make more of a name for itself in the NBA world, and Wiggins seems like a fantastic ambassador.
He was as relaxed and comfortable today as I've seen him all year and really seems to be enjoying the moment and soaking up the whole experience.
1:00 P.M. UPDATE
Wiggins, wearing a light blue, form-fitting shirt, navy slacks and a huge smile, just fielded 30 minutes worth of questions from the media here in NYC.
The most asked questions of Wiggins during the session were:
1. Does it mean anything to you to be the no. 1 pick?
2. Why do you feel you're ready for the NBA?
3. Specifics inquiries about individual workouts. Curiously, there was not a single mention of Milwaukee, which picks second. Plenty of inquiries about Cleveland at No. 1 and Philly at No. 3, and even one about Toronto at 20 (go figure), but not a peep about the Bucks.
Sounds to me like Wiggins really liked Cleveland and wants to go there for more than just the prestige of being the top pick...
I also snagged Wiggins before he began the Q & A so he could give a message to the KU fans out there.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUoW0rM6Zag 11:10 A.M. UPDATE
Just arrived at The Westin Times Square and it's about go time for Andrew Wiggins. He'll be talking in the first group at 11:30 and will be buried in the back right corner of the ballroom. Gonna have to elbow my way in for a good spot.
Dozens of autograph seekers are on the corner of 43rd Street & 8th Avenue and you can bet Wiggins will be a much sought after signature.
He signed for an hour last night at Champs in Times Square and it will be interesting to see where his energy is today.
Stay right here for photos, sound bites and anything else Andrew Wiggins from NYC today. As you surely know, Joel Embiid is not here today.
— ORIGINAL POST —
Several months worth of speculation, waiting and wondering have brought us to the final day of anticipation.
By this time tomorrow, former Kansas University freshmen Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins will have done all they can do to convince their potential future NBA destinations that they are the right guys to pick in this year's NBA Draft, which is set for 6 p.m. Thursday night at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn.
Heading into today, what will happen at the top of the draft seems very much up in the air still. Wiggins is still alive to become the No. 1 pick and, thanks to a foot injury late in the draft preparation process, Embiid appears to be out of the equation.
Then again, it is the NBA Draft, where rumors, wheeling and dealing and all kinds of craziness can take place right up until the last minute.
Some, like our own Tom Keegan, believe that all of the talk about Embiid being out of the mix for the top pick is just talk and that there might be a team or two still willing to take him there. Others believe that No. 1 position will come down to a choice by Cleveland between Wiggins and Duke's Jabari Parker.
All three players have been part of the so-called “Big Three” throughout the months leading up to the draft, and, on Tuesday, Parker seemed to be the guy who many experts thought was going to be this year's top dog. But by late Tuesday night, the tide had begun to swing Wiggins' way again and, as it stands now, I think that's where the Cavs will go. I know I would.
It's too bad, too. Because if Embiid had not injured his foot, he likely would have been the clear-cut top pick and there likely would be a lot more order in this whole thing than we currently have. Then again, it's the draft and chaos is part of the fun.
As has been the case for the past four years, I'm out here in New York City ready to track Wiggins' throughout his final day as an amateur athlete. There's media availability at the Westin Times Square scheduled for 11:30-12:30 and I'll do whatever I can to track the guy for a couple of stops after that.
So stay logged on to KUsports.com and this blog throughout the day for videos, photos, quotes, updates, Tweets and all kinds of color from the Big Apple. Embiid's not here, but I'm sure his name will come up a couple of times somewhere along the way.
In case you've missed our draft coverage leading up to today, here are a few links to get you going while you wait for the action to get started out this way.
Tom Keegan examines the chances of Tarik Black getting drafted on Thursday
Matt Tait's KU draft memories from the last 4 years in New York
Tom Keegan's column: NBA mock drafts a mockery
Gary Bedore's notebook
The curse of the NBA big man always affects drafts
NBA's one-and-done rule draws mixed reviews
Gary Bedore's update on Tarik Black's chances in the draft
Gary Bedore's report about this year's draft having plenty of Kansas flavor despite Embiid's absence
Gary Bedore's update on Bill Self's optimism about Joel Embiid's pro future
Blog Central.... Finally, blogs galore that have tried to track all of the rumors and jockeying for position leading up to the draft
Tale of the Tait — Foot injury sends Embiid falling in most NBA mock drafts
Double Chin Music — Embiid worth the risk for Cavs
Hawks in the NBA — Stock Watch 6/23
All Eyes on KU — Cavs torn between Wiggins and Parker; more on Embiid's health comes out
Andrew Wiggins workout highlights making social media rounds http://www2.kusports.com/weblogs/all_eyes_ku/2014/jun/25/andrew-wiggins-workout-highlights-show-u/
Thursday's news that former KU center Joel Embiid suffered a stress fracture in his right foot and would have surgery today and miss out on attending next week's NBA Draft in New York was one of the biggest pieces of pre-draft news in recent memory.
Most years, the mock drafts that come out this late generally have a pretty good feel for what's going to happen in the draft and that certainly was the case this year before Embiid's injury popped up.
Now, all bets are off and everyone seems to be scrambling to figure out what his injury means and how far the 7-footer from Cameroon may fall next Thursday.
As has been the case during the past four years, I'll be out in the Big Apple again this year to cover the event. Until yesterday, I had some pretty big things planned for following Embiid and Andrew Wiggins as they officially transition into NBA players, but now I'll have to stick tight with Wiggins and bring you whatever I'm hearing from out there about Embiid, which, undoubtedly, figures to be quite a bit.
I'll have much more on the draft next week — live blogs, audio, video and sights and sounds from the big city and draft night — but, while we wait, let's take a quick look at what people around the NBA world are saying about Embiid and his injury.
First up, our own Tom Keegan, who has been in the Embiid should go No. 1 camp for six or seven months, says the Cleveland Cavaliers should be bold and stick with the big guy at the top of the draft.
ESPN Insider Chad Ford dropped Embiid ever so slightly in his latest mock draft, from No. 1 to Orlando at No. 4...
If Embiid falls to No. 4, he might be too tantalizing for them to pass up. Orlando is in desperate need of a rim protector and an athletic frontcourt player to pair with Nikola Vucevic. While drafting Embiid will be a risk, he might have too much upside for them to pass up, especially when they have another pick in the lottery. If the Magic are scared off by Embiid's injury, Noah Vonleh is also a possibility here.
CBS.com NBA writer Matt Moore dropped Embiid from No. 1 all the way to the Boston Celtics at No. 6 — boy, does that have a nice ring to it...
Danny Ainge disses the draft for six months and winds up with the best player in it. Typical Celtics. Remember, the Celtics took Jared Sullinger with a medical red flag, and they've been pleased with the results. They trust their training staff. Kelly Olynyk is not the future, nor is Vitor Faverani. And if you're looking to eventually deal a combination of assets for starpower, like they did in 2007, Embiid is the guy who in two years could net that kind of player, beyond any other available at this spot. Unbelievably, Embiid goes green.
Like Ford, CBS.com's Garry Parrish dropped Embiid from No. 1 to No. 4...
If you're Orlando, I guess, you're more nervous than thrilled here, but you're still kinda thrilled because you're getting the best talent in the draft with the fourth pick, and, man, if this turns out OK it really could be a boon for the franchise. On the other hand, if Embiid proves to be basically injured forever, then you'll forever be the franchise that wasted the fourth pick in a deep draft on a center with documented back and foot problems, and that would stink. Regardless, Orlando has another lottery pick in this draft, meaning the Magic are in a position to gamble, and I think a roll of the so-called dice on Embiid here is a bet worth making.
And then there's fellow-CBS.com NBA writer Zach Harper, who still believes the big fella belongs in the Top 3. He's got Embiid going No. 3 to Philadelphia, down two spots from his previous prediction of No. 1...
I don't think the foot injury scares off the Sixers at all. They're fine being bad for a couple years and we've already seen them wait a year with Nerlens Noel to make sure he recovers properly. They could do the same with Embiid and have a twin towers ready to deny anybody who wants to grab a rebound or take a shot inside against the Sixers. Assuming the foot injury isn't a long-term issue for Embiid, this is best-case scenario for the Sixers.
The guys at DraftExpress.com have Embiid going fourth to Orlando, NBADraft.net has him going No. 3 to Philly and MyNBADraft.com also has him going No. 4 to Orlando.
While dropping from No. 1 to No. 3, No. 4 or No. 6 certainly qualifies as big news — and big money — it looks as if Embiid's camp can feel confident Embiid won't fall farther than the Celtics at 6. That idea becomes especially interesting given that the rival Los Angeles Lakers pick right behind the Celtics at No. 7.
Here's Celtics director of player personnel Danny Ainge talking to Boston.com....
“Those are always concerns,” Ainge said of Embiid’s injuries, “especially when it’s a player like that we won’t be able to have in to evaluate, to really get the risks from our medical staff. There’s a lot of guesswork involved, but you are always trying to weigh short-term and long-term. We try to think long-term that if a guy has to miss a couple months, it shouldn’t deter us from taking him if he is going to be the best player long-term. We’ve had some success with that with Avery Bradley and Jared Sullinger. There can be some value there, but there’s always risk.”
Personally, I think Harper and NBADraft.net have got it right. I could very much see Embiid falling but I can't see him falling past Philly.
It makes sense, to me, for the Cavs to be concerned about Embiid's injuries mostly because of all of the pressure that goes into having the No. 1 pick. If you miss with No. 2, No. 5 or No. 9, it's not as big of a failure as missing with No. 1. So unless the Cavs are absolutely in love with him, I could see them going the safe route and picking Wiggins or Parker.
That leaves the Milwaukee Bucks to take whichever one of those two Cleveland doesn't grab and puts Philly in the enviable position of being able to snag Embiid without the pressure of putting a No. 1 pick on the line.
If he falls farther down the board than No. 3, I won't be shocked, but, if it were me making the decisions, I definitely wouldn't let him slip past that.
Should be fun to see how it plays out. Be sure to check back throughout Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week for all kinds of tidbits from NYC.
It's crazy to think that the next piece of significant news we get about Kansas University freshman Joel Embiid could come with him sitting at a table in the Allen Fieldhouse media room, a microphone in front of face and his decision about the NBA on the tip of his tongue.
That reality became true in a very harsh manner on Monday evening, when KU coach Bill Self revealed the results of Embiid's second-opinion visit with back specialists in California, news that indicated Embiid was out for the Big 12 tournament and likely would miss the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament in St. Louis.
The 23-8 Jayhawks are not the same team without Embiid on the floor. Opponents aren't as intimidated to drive to the rim. Points in the paint aren't as easy to come by. Heck, even as corny as they may have looked at times, the Jayhawks even miss the moments when Embiid liked to fire his long-fingered guns after a particularly big or even strong bucket.
So, yeah, there's reason to worry about KU's postseason chances without their most valuable player because the Jayhawks are not the same team without him. That might even be putting it mildly. They're a different team altogether.
But they are still talented. Very. And they are still deep. Luxuriously. And they do still have Self. Confidently. So they do still have a chance.
Playing, no advancing, without Embiid is not a simple equation. It's not as easy as saying Tarik Black has to step in and perform well in Embiid's absence because in basketball terms, mathematical equations or any other form of measurement Black does not equal Embiid. But Kansas can.
Andrew Wiggins can — and should — play more like he did against West Virginia last Saturday. He doesn't have to score 41 points each night out as long as he's that aggressive and competitive and dominant. If he is, whatever offense Black and Jamari Traylor can give in Embiid's spot will be gravy.
Defensively, the Jayhawks could tinker with a zone defense or even press more. That seems to fuel Wiggins and likely would ensure that he plays with fire. It also would limit the number of times KU would have to sit down and guard in the half court, something that has been several levels below the Kansas standard throughout the season.
There's no way to sugar coat the loss of Embiid. It's a blow. A big one. And it turns Kansas from a team that would likely be one of the favorites to win it all into just another in a big pile of worthy contenders that have to play extremely well to make it to Dallas.
Good offense won't be enough anymore. Improved defense won't either. The Jayhawks have to be impressive on both ends without Embiid if they hope to see him suit up, well and rested, for what could be a couple of pretty important games down the stretch.
The talent is there, though. And it's the will of his teammates that will determine whether Embiid's stay-or-go press conference will be the next time we hear from him or if there are still a few finger pistols to fire before the season ends.
In a recent blog ranking the 25 best players in college basketball today, ESPN.com's John Gasaway placed two Jayhawks on his list but perhaps not as high as many of you might expect.
Because the blog falls under the ESPN Insider pay wall, I can't link to it here because I don't want to send those of you who aren't "Insiders" to a link you cannot access.
But we can still discuss Gasaway's rankings.
First thing's first: He put freshman center Joel Embiid at No. 9 and freshman wing Andrew Wiggins at No. 21.
The top five looked like this: 1. Doug McDermott (Creighton), 2. Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State), 3. Lamar Patterson (Pitt), 4. Tyler Ennis (Syracuse) and 5. Julius Randle (Kentucky).
I have to admit I was a little surprised not to see Embiid and/or Wiggins higher on the list and also surprised that Duke's Jabari Parker did not crack the Top 5. For what it's worth, Gasaway ranks Parker sixth, so that's not a huge slight. And, really, if you read his explanation for the rankings, putting Embiid and Wiggins where he did is not a knock either.
Those of you who can check out the full blog should go take a look. In it, Gasaway explains that the entire exercise was done to give a better indication of the top college players who impact the college game better than anyone else. He acknowledges that often — perhaps too often — college players are judged and ranked based on their potential impact in the NBA and using that as a filter for current collegiate players often skews the process of identifying the top college players.
No one better backs up that theory than McDermott, who is as good as it gets at the college level but may not project to be quite the pro of Parker or Embiid or Wiggins.
It's an interesting concept and, for those of you out there who may consider yourselves college basketball purists, probably one that's rather refreshing.
Even if it's not, I don't think you should take it as a slight toward Embiid or Wiggins. Landing in the Top 25 is solid no matter where you are and Gasaway's explanations for both players point out that he is very aware they're likely to be among the top picks in the June draft. Again, though, for this blog, he's looking purely at how they impact the college game.
Here's a look at what he said about the two Jayhawks in his Top 25:
9 - Joel Embiid, Kansas Jayhawks
Embiid may well be the first player taken in the 2014 NBA draft, so what's he doing way "down" here at No. 9? I see no contradiction here. The NBA is correctly registering that players of Embiid's height and ability are exceptionally rare. This list is attempting to correctly measure Embiid's impact as a college player over his first 409 minutes.
Clearly, that impact has been huge. Embiid makes 70 percent of his 2s as a supporting player in a Jayhawks offense centered on Wiggins and Perry Ellis. He also blocks shots and cleans the glass at both ends. On the other hand, Embiid is still averaging more than six fouls per 40 minutes, and he has recorded four or more fouls in four of his past six outings. His minutes are limited (and that lowers the benefit KU draws from his shot-blocking), but when he's on the floor Embiid changes the game dramatically. I don't blame the NBA one bit for being keenly interested in the young man.
21 - Andrew Wiggins, Kansas Jayhawks
Wiggins will be one of the first two or three players selected in the 2014 NBA draft based on an expectation of what an 18-year-old (he'll turn 19 next month) this skilled might become in the very near future.
Meantime, he also happens to be one of the best college players in the country, one who carries a larger workload than any teammate on the offense of a national title contender. Wiggins' shooting percentages from the field are, as yet, just fair, but he takes care of the ball, draws fouls and shoots 76 percent at the line. Don't be surprised if his ranking improves on future versions of this list.