Thursday, May 30, 2024
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Infamous French basketball player wants Joel Embiid banned from entering country for Olympics: ‘I hate him’

The recruitment of Joel Embiid was one of the biggest stories leading up to the 2024 Olympic basketball tournament, which will be held in Paris. Embiid, a native of Cameroon, considered his birthplace as well as France, where he has some family, and the United States, where he lives and plays as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers

Embiid has never lived in France, going directly from Cameroon to Florida where he played high school ball. But he speaks French fluently, and was reportedly interested in playing for the French national team on the international stage. In fact, a letter Embiid allegedly wrote to French president Emmanuel Macron in which he expressed a desire to play for France and be made a naturalized citizen was recently leaked, though neither Embiid himself nor the French government have confirmed the letter’s legitimacy.

Embiid ultimately was granted French citizenship in 2022, but he wound up deciding to play for Team USA in 2023. Several members of the French basketball community have expressed disappointment in his decision. 

“Team USA, with him, who can beat you? Come on, nobody,” Jean-Pierre Siutat, president of the French Basketball Federation, told The Athletic’s Joe Vardon. “This is an easy way for him to get an Olympic medal.”

Such frustration is to be expected given how close France came to beating Team USA in 2021. However, one former French olympian took things to an entirely new level. Do you remember Frederic Weis? If not, this clip should jog your memory.

In France, it is known as “Le dunk de la mort.” In English, that translates to “the dunk of death.” Weis, selected No. 15 overall in the 1999 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks, never played in the NBA. But he will forever be remembered for what an NBA star did to him on the international stage. After the dunk Vince Carter inflicted on him in the 2000 Olympics, Weis harboring some feelings of ill-will towards Team USA is a bit understandable. 

When Team USA’s interests conflict with his home country’s, well, you get the take he recently dropped on his radio show at the French station RMC. At first, he expressed his anger with Embiid seemingly using his athletic gifts to gain French citizenship in a way that is not available to most prospective immigrants or naturalization candidates.

“I consider this boy a great player as much as he is a dirty guy,” he said, according to Eurohops.net. “I hate him for the things that he did. I think he doesn’t have any respect for France and also for all the people who are asking for a French passport and don’t get it. And under the pretext that he is a great athlete, he got it. I find it scandalous, I find it embarrassing. I don’t care about his excuses, cause they are his words, and his words mean nothing.”

This is already a pretty intense position, but trust me, Weis wasn’t done. His solution? Ban Embiid from the Olympics. In fact, don’t even allow him into the country when they begin. “I would take away from him the French nationality and I would ban him from entering France,” Weis said. “You will not play in the Olympics. You will come to the airport with Team USA and we will say: You don’t have the right to enter the territory, go to your home. You are Cameronian, you are American, you are not French, go away.”

There is an interesting conversation to be had about FIBA’s naturalization rules, which currently allow for each team to include one naturalized player on their roster in international competitions. This rule theoretically gives USA Basketball a bit of an advantage, because the best basketball players in the world all play in the United States, and therefore have easier access to talent in this way. 

Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing and Tim Duncan all played for Team USA as naturalized citizens. Embiid, like all of them did, lives and works in the United States. His son was born here, and as he explained when he chose Team USA, he wants to win gold to honor his son’s home country. Embiid was not born in the United States, but he is very much American, and if nothing else, he has a stronger connection to the United States than France, where he has never lived. There’s an argument to be made that Team USA has access to so much talent already that allowing them bring naturalized players to competitions further stacks the deck in their favor.

But that’s not the argument Weis, or France, is making. Their anger is expressed at Embiid not for choosing Team USA, but for not choosing France. Weis’ solution is ridiculous once you give it any thought. Heck, why stop at Embiid? Why not just ban the entire Team USA roster while you’re at it? Germany just won the World Cup. They’re pretty tough, ban them too. And let’s throw Canada, Slovenia and Serbia on the list too, just to be safe.

We’re headed for one of the most exciting Olympic basketball tournaments in history. The newfound rivalry between Embiid and France is going to be a major storyline in that tournament, especially since it will be held in Paris. If Weis is this mad now, the crowds are going to be crazy when Team USA actually faces France. Fortunately for Team USA, the odds of France creating an international incident by barring Embiid’s entry appear to be minimal.

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