It sounds crazy now, but 76ers center Joel Embiid once came close to walking away from basketball. Unable to play in his first two seasons, the third overall pick of the 2014 NBA draft considered giving up the sport.
Thursday, he became the franchise’s first player to be voted to start in three consecutive NBA All-Star Games since Allen Iverson did it seven straight times from 2000 to 2006.
Embiid was named an Eastern Conference starter when the starting fives for the Feb. 16 game were announced.
The All-Star reserves, selected by the league’s coaches, will be announced next Thursday. Ben Simmons is a candidate to be a reserve.
Embiid said he will play in the All-Star Game, to be held this year in Chicago. The Cameroonian had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left ring finger on Jan. 9. The Sixers haven’t revealed a timetable for his return. However, the procedure typically requires a month of healing, followed by several weeks of physical therapy, sports medicine specialists say.
Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (West) and Milwaukee Bucks power forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (East) led the 10 starters chosen in voting by fans, players, and a panel of reporters. The fans accounted for 50% of the vote totals, with the media members and players accounting for 25% each.
James and Antetokoumpo will serve as team captains after finishing as the top vote-getters in their respective conferences.
The captains will select their rosters from the starters and reserves on Feb. 6. Each captain must pick four of the other eight starters. Starters from the Eastern Conference are Antetokounmpo, Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam, Boston Celtics point guard Kemba Walker, Atlanta Hawks point guard Trae Young, and Embiid.
For the Western Conference, the starters are James, Lakers power forward Anthony Davis, Houston Rockets guard James Harden, Los Angeles Clippers small forward Kawhi Leonard, and Dallas Mavericks point guard Luka Doncic.
Embiid finished third in the fan voting for Eastern Conference front-court players. He was second in both the player and media voting. Meanwhile, Simmons was eighth in the fans voting, fourth in player voting and third in media voting.
Embiid has averaged 23.4 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 1.35 blocks, and 31.1 minutes in 31 games this season.
Embiid has thrived despite battling injuries since being drafted by the Sixers. He sat out his first two seasons because of two foot surgeries. He had season-ending surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his left knee during the 2016-17 campaign. The following year, he missed time because of an orbital bone fracture near his left eye. And last season, he missed time with tendinitis in his left knee.