Cameroonian Joel Embiid made his long-awaited return to professional basketball with the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, Nov. 27, after coming down with covid-19 and missing nine games, only two of which the Sixers won.
Embiid, who is vaccinated, said that that he thought he would not make it when he got sick with covid and noted that he “couldn’t breathe” and had headaches “worse than a migraine”. He added that his whole body was just done, and it was not a good time.
The Nov. 27 game against the Timberwolves in Philadelphia was the first for Embiid since he tested positive for covid-19. He entered the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Nov. 8.
“That jawn hit me hard, I mean, I really thought I wasn’t going to make it. It was that bad. So, I’m just thankful to be sitting here. I struggled with it, but I’m just glad I got over it and I’m just here,” Embiid said during a press briefing.
“Jawn” is Philadelphia slang, which can be used in place of almost any noun.
Embiid was able to play the 45-minute game in the Sixers‘ double-overtime loss to Minnesota, scoring 42 points and grabbing 14 rebounds. He said he was surprised that his endurance was not more of a problem.
He did some of his best work during the overtimes, recording 13 points after regulation.
“The first time I went up and down was probably two days ago. Honestly, I didn’t think I was going o play tonight after the workout last night. I really couldn’t go up and down more than three times,” Embiid said during a press conference.
He said it was a miracle that he was able to play as long as he did, and even though the 76ers lost, they must get back on track.
Embiid has been active in supporting others devastated around the world by the virus long before his personal experience. In March 2020, at the onset of the covid pandemic lockdowns that forced the NBA to suspend its season for several months, Embiid pledged a $500,000 donation to covid-19 medical relief efforts.
Minnesota forward Karl-Anthony Towns, whose mother Jacqueline and several other family members died of complications from covid-19 last year, said he was glad to see Embiid return healthy again.
“That’s bigger than basketball, I’ve seen people die from that,” said Towns, who finished with 28 points and 10 rebounds for the 10-10 Timberwolves.
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