Though his initial reaction suggested otherwise, the 7-footer from Kansas was thrilled to go No. 3 to the 76ers in last Thursday's NBA draft. Embiid didn't fall far despite suffering a stress fracture in his right foot a week earlier.
DAN PATRICK:Did you play soccer growing up?
JOEL EMBIID: I played soccer my whole life.
DP:Were you a goalie?
JE: No, I was actually a defender and midfielder.
DP:How good were you?
JE: I was pretty good. I should have been on the [Cameroon] national team this year. [Laughs.]
DP:How exactly did you hurt your foot?
JE: I was working out, and at the end I just felt a little pain. I didn't know what was going on. I called my agent, and the next day we went to the hospital and did MRIs and X-rays.
DP:Was surgery scary?
JE: It was pretty scary. The doctor gave me two options. The first was not [having] surgery. The second was surgery. He told me the surgery was going to be better and it wasn't going to be a long-term problem.
DP:Where did you think you were going to be picked?
JE: I thought with the latest injury I was going to drop a lot. Maybe 15. Maybe second round.
DP:You did not.
JE: Yes, I did. You know how people talk on social media. I bought into that. I was also listening to my agents; they told me good things. I was kind of surprised [I went third].
DP:What went through your mind when Philadelphia picked you?
JE: They said on TV that I didn't look happy. It was because of the TV delay. When they showed me, Adam Silver was saying, "The 76ers have the third pick."
DP:So you were O.K. going there?
JE:[Laughs.] I was happy. People were just going crazy. I was excited.
DP:Which player do you look forward to playing against?
JE: I would say maybe DeAndre Jordan or Dwight Howard.
DP:You want to posterize those guys?
JE: Yup. [Laughs.]
DP:You're not afraid?
JE: No, no, no. I know I'm going to get better. Since I started working out again this summer, I've already gotten so much better.
DP:Would you rather be a star in soccer or basketball?
JE: I'd probably choose soccer.
DP:Would you rather be Cristiano Ronaldo or LeBron James?
JE: I would say Ronaldo. Soccer players are more famous than basketball players. They have everything. But you have to be a man to play basketball, and I don't think those soccer guys can [play basketball].
DP:So you don't flop?
JE: No. I've been watching the World Cup. They need to fine them every time they flop.
It doesn't bother U.S. Women's Open champ Michelle Wie that her parents pushed her hard at a young age. "I wouldn't give anything back," the 24-year-old told me. "Parents don't have a guidebook about how to handle kids. We certainly made mistakes along the way, but I think we all learned from them." ... Dennis Miller said he holds no grudges about being fired from Monday Night Football in 2001, after just his second season: "If I'm in L.A. and I want to do some comedy and I go to the Improv and John Madden's on stage, they better haul his [butt] off. That's the way the world works, baby." ... I asked ESPN analyst Seth Greenberg to compare No. 11 pick Doug McDermott with a nonwhite player. "That's a pretty good challenge," Greenberg said. "I love McDermott.... He's really a very good player.... I'm stalling.... There's got to be one...."
MICHAEL J. LEBRECHT II FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (PATRICK)
ROBIN MARCHANT/GETTY IMAGES (EMBIID)
ROBERT BECK/SPORTS ILLUSTRATED (WIE)
FRAZER HARRISON/GETTY IMAGES (MILLER)
MARK ABBOTT/SOUTHCREEK GLOBAL (GREENBERG)