Joel Embiid may not have had the best performance in Thursday’s game against the Washington Wizards, but the Sixers power forward has been been immortalized forever thanks to a new sculpture in Brooklyn — or, at least his arm has.
New York City debuted artist Hank Willis Thomas’ Unity in downtown Brooklyn last month, Brooklyn Paper reports. The sculpture depicts a 22-foot arm pointing to the sky with a finger raised, and was modeled from a three-dimensional scan of Embiid’s right arm.
Unity uses the Philly-based Cameroonian’s appendage as an “homage to, and celebration of, the unique and multifaceted character of the borough of Brooklyn," Thomas said in a statement.
“The spirit of Brooklyn has always been about upward mobility and connection to roots,” Thomas said. “The large-scale sculpture of a bronze arm pointing toward the sky is intended to convey to a wide audience a myriad of ideas about individual and collective identity, ambition, and perseverance.”
As Thomas wrote earlier this year on Instagram, work on the piece began in 2014 — the same year Embiid signed his rookie contract with the 76ers. Thomas later told the New York University Tisch School of the Arts that Embiid wound up being involved almost by chance.
“I had a studio visit with some people and they saw that I was doing a sculpture, so I was doing molds and casts with body parts of NBA players. They were like, ‘Do you need anybody else?’ and I was like, ‘Sure!’” Thomas said. “Then they said, ‘Well, there’s this kid, he hasn’t started playing yet, but I’m pretty sure he’s gonna be good. You should reach out to him.’ And that was Joel Embiid.”
The project reportedly cost $284,000, and will remain on display in Brooklyn for at least 30 years, Brooklyn Paper reports. Now, missing out on Embiid starring alongside Adam Sandler in a movie doesn’t seem so bad.
Thomas has his own Philadelphia roots: In 2017, he created a sculpture of a 12-foot Afro pick, called All Power to the People, which was displayed near the controversial Frank Rizzo statue in Thomas Paine Plaza during the Monuments Lab project. While installing the sculpture, he told The Inquirer that his maternal grandfather was a Philadelphia police officer who was in the Police Academy with Rizzo.