(AP) — Joel Embiid will wear red, white and blue in Paris next summer — not rouge, blanc and bleu.
The NBA’s reigning MVP and scoring champion has told USA Basketball that, after more than a year of deliberating, he has picked the Americans over France as his team for the Paris Olympics, according to a person with knowledge of the decision.
The Philadelphia 76ers’ star let USA Basketball managing director Grant Hill know his mind was made up on Thursday, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because Embiid has not yet revealed his choice publicly. Embiid is scheduled to speak at 76ers’ camp in Fort Collins, Colorado, later Thursday.
ESPN first reported Embiid’s decision.
USA Basketball does not plan to name its team until the spring of 2024, but if healthy, Embiid would seem certain to have one of the 12 spots on the squad that will be coached by Golden State’s Steve Kerr with assistants Erik Spoelstra of Miami, Tyronn Lue of the Los Angeles Clippers and Mark Few of Gonzaga. No player has been officially named to the team at this point.
The U.S. will try for a fifth consecutive gold medal at Paris next summer. Embiid joins a long list of top NBA players who are hoping or planning to play for the U.S. next summer, including Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Bam Adebayo, Devin Booker and many more.
Embiid became a U.S. citizen last year and could have also chosen to play for France — or even Cameroon, his homeland, if it qualified for the Paris Games. Cameroon will be among 24 teams playing for the final four spots in the 12-nation Olympic field next summer; the U.S., France, World Cup champion Germany, Serbia, Canada, Australia, Japan and South Sudan have already qualified for Paris.
Embiid said in recent days that he was nearing a final decision, and spoke about how difficult the process was for him.
It is a massive recruiting win for the Americans. Embiid was a rarity, an international basketball free agent — since he had never been part of a senior national team and holds multiple passports, which meant he had multiple options.
France — the reigning Olympic silver medalists, after losing to the U.S. in the final at the Tokyo Games played in 2021 — had pitched Embiid on the prospects of joining a frontcourt that will likely include Rudy Gobert and Victor Wembanyama next summer, and until Embiid revealed a year ago that he had obtained U.S. citizenship it was widely expected that he would play for the host nation at the Paris Games.
“I know he met some of our players to discuss,” France coach Vincent Collet said in October 2022. “I think he should play with us. But we will see. We will respect his decision whatever it is.”
Embiid was born in Cameroon and has held French citizenship. He has spent essentially his entire basketball life in the U.S.; he went to high school in Florida, played college basketball at Kansas and has been with the 76ers for the entirety of his NBA career.
The six-time NBA All-Star and five-time All-NBA selection has averaged 27.2 points in his career, winning his first scoring title by averaging a then-career-best 30.6 points in 2021-22 and winning his second straight scoring crown by averaging 33.1 points this past season.