The Joel Embiid basketball fans have seen this regular season is a happy-go-lucky 22-year-old giant, full of spirit and optimism, who's lifted the Philadelphia 76ers back to relevance in the Association.
Not that long ago, though, it looked as if the Cameroonian center might never see an NBA court. Two major surgeries on his foot forced him to sit out the first two seasons of his career. That, paired with the death of his younger brother Arthur in a 2014 car crash, led Embiid to consider leaving the sport.
"I was in such in a dark place, I wanted to quit basketball," Embiid said during an appearance on ESPN Radio's "Meet the All-Stars Show" with Marc Kestecher and Marc Stein. "I just wanted to go back home and leave everything behind.
"But, you know, coming into (this) season, one thing I thought was just, 'Come and have fun.' It's all about having fun. So all the dark days that I had back then, for me now, I think it's my time to have fun."
It certainly looks like Embiid is having the time of his life these days. He's gathered quite the following on social media, endearing himself to the masses with his humor and creativity, which he put on display in an effort to get himself named to the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
"The time that I missed, (those) two years that I missed, I went to such ... I was in a bad place," he added. "Coming back and having a chance to be the Rookie of the Year, I think it's going to pay for all the sacrifices that I made."
While falling short in his bid to crack the All-Star roster, Embiid was named to Team World for the Rising Stars game, and will participate as one of the four "bigs" in the Skills Challenge during All-Star Saturday Night. Unfortunately, a left knee injury will keep him out of the competitions.
"I'm not worried at all," Embiid added. "It's a bone bruise. (The media) talked about a meniscus (injury), but I'm being treated for the bone bruise.
"Our goal is for me to be asymptomatic and then, when that happens, I'm going to be back on the court."
The 7-footer leads all first-year players in scoring (20.2 points per game), rebounds (7.8), rejections (2.45), and double-doubles (nine) in 31 appearances, all while averaging just 25.4 minutes.