Joel Embiid is featured one of of two SLAM Magazine covers this month. The other is of Duke freshman Jabari Parker. You can view the cover below. This is the first national magazine cover for Embiid. This is the fourth for a Kansas freshman this year (Sports Illustrated for Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden and ESPN the Magazine for Wiggins).
Here’s the release from SLAM:
The emergence of Embiid—who graces our second cover, which will be available at all US newsstands—into a potential No. 1 draft pick couldn’t have possibly been expected by anyone. Not this soon at least. In retrospect, the 7-footer barely even made SLAM’s PUNKS section. It wasn’t until after he finished with 5 blocks and 7 rebounds to complement his 4 points at the Jordan Brand Classic in mid-April that our EIC Ben Osborne suggested he should be considered for a PUNKS story. We ended up featuring him in Issue 170, which dropped in mid-June and was literally the last batch of 2013 recruits featured before turning our attention to the rising senior Class of 2014 the following month. In many ways, that game at Barclays Center might have been the start of it all. The following month, ESPN had moved up Embiid to No. 6 in the senior class. But even then, the scouting report was still basically a raw talent with tremendous upside; a TBD until his offense begins to come around.
So when I reached out to his HS coach, Justin Harden, at The Rock School in late-May of last year, the Cameroon native was basically within a week from graduating. At the time, he made a trip from Florida to Washington, DC, to renew some visa paperwork at the Cameroonian Embassy. Understandably, he ended up calling me late that night. He quickly apologized for not getting back to me sooner, before apologizing again for his foreign accent and then saying thank you a couple of times for the interview. The point is, here was an extremely humbled kid saying sorry for things that needed no apology. Little did he and the rest of us know back then that within six months he would gain all the national notoriety he’s garnered and be a candidate for the top pick of the Draft—and that within nine months he would find himself going from barely making the back of the magazine to donning the cover. Remarkably, he’s improved drastically from that spring night in Brooklyn, especially his footwork. Averaging over 11 points and 8 rebounds for the season, the Hakeem Olajuwon comparisons have been nonstop. The recent news of him suffering from a stress fracture in his back and subsequently going to miss the Big 12 tourney, and possibly even the NCAA Tourney, could have potentially marked the end of his college career—considering that if he’s seriously considering the Draft then sitting out and playing it safe might be the way to go.
Nonetheless, if it is the end, the real beginning is only about to start. For both.