With a well-deserved reputation as having one of the loudest, most intense fanbases, Philly is not the easiest city to play for. Yet, one player has not only become beloved there, he’s become an adopted son of sorts, an embodiment of who Philly is as a city and the face of one of the most iconic franchises in basketball.
Joel Embiid was drafted third overall by Philadelphia after a promising freshman season at Kansas. Originally from Yaounde, Cameroon, Embiid went from not picking up a basketball until he was 15 to being declared the savior to a major franchise. For Embiid, it had been one hell of a journey. He was discovered at a basketball camp by fellow Yaounde native and NBA vet Luc Mbah a Moute, and with him as his mentor Embiid moved to America at 16 to pursue a basketball dream. As a senior in high school, Embiid was one of the top recruits in the country and would lead his team to a state title before heading off to Lawrence, Kansas to play for Bill Self. That season, Embiid was one of 30 finalists for the Player of the Year award.
After the draft, there was a ton of hype surrounding Embiid, and Philly fans were salivating at seeing him take the court. Unfortunately, Embiid’s career got off to a brutal start as he struggled with injury after injury. Questions began to swirl about whether he would ever play a game in the NBA. Throughout it all, Embiid remained focused on his rehab, saying, “You can’t just sit back and hope for the best. You have to put in the work every single day. You just have to trust the process and make sure you’re working hard because it will pay off.”
When Embiid finally took the court in his third season, he quickly became a force that opposing teams were ill-equipped to handle. In a league that has gradually become more perimeter-oriented with a major emphasis on outside shooting, Embiid was dominating the paint and feasting night in and night out. Despite only playing 31 games, Embiid finished second in Rookie of the Year voting and quickly established himself as a fan favorite in Philly.
Embiid said, “I love the fans – we have a special relationship. One minute they might cheer for you and the next minute they might boo you. That just shows you they care. I’d rather play there then for another city where fans just come to the game for entertainment. I want people to care because it pushes me to be better.”
Embiid has paired his immense physical gifts with a burning desire to be one of the greatest to ever play. Now entering his sixth season, he has made clear his goals to win an MVP and bring a title to Philly. To help achieve those goals Embiid has partnered with Under Armour for his first signature shoe, the UA Embiid One. Together with designer Reggie Wilson, they have designed a shoe that isn’t just for big men but for all players.
Before even sitting down with Joel to discuss the shoe, Wilson was busy seeking out inspiration by looking at Embiid’s home country of Cameroon and studying some famous monuments and landmarks from there. He really dug into Embiid’s journey to the league and was inspired by what he learned.
One of the unique aspects of the shoe is that it tells Embiid’s story chronologically through the shoe’s colorways. Wilson is pumped to show off some of the key details in the shoe saying, “His family is really important to him, so we molded his family’s names into the backside of the TPU wing.” Wilson also noted that he loves how the outsole turned out and that people should really look for some of those smaller storytelling elements embedded in the shoe.
From a technical aspect for the shoe, there are a few things Wilson is really excited about. The first thing is the breathability of the shoe. Wilson learned from a Philadelphia trainer that Embiid’s feet would get incredibly hot during games. It became so bad that Embiid would have to take his shoes off when he was on the bench to give his feet some fresh air. “Some of the shoes he was wearing were so bulky, so many layers, and that was one of the things we wanted to avoid. We wanted to make this as breathable as possible but still strong enough for him,” said Wilson. By constructing the upper with mesh layers Wilson was able to ensure that heat was able to escape and fresh air could flow through the shoe.
Cushioning is where a shoe really makes its mark, and the UA Embiid One is certainly not lacking in that department. It’s built with HOVR technology, Under Armour’s patented cushioning tech, that provides some of the best, most efficient energy return in the game. Sitting under the heel of the foot is Micro-G cushioning to add additional cushioning.
During the design process Embiid and Wilson worked closely together to figure out the cut of the shoe. Eschewing the typical high-cut that has become common with basketball shoes they decided to go with a mid-cut, which better matched Embiid’s style of play. The cut really speaks to the versatility of shoe. Guards and wing players get the freedom they need to drive hard to the basket and big men the support they need to dominate down low.
Both Embiid and Wilson are thrilled with how the shoe turned out and can’t wait for it to become available.
About the shoe, Embiid said, “It was great working with them and I’m happy with the end result, and I think it’s going to be exciting when it comes out.”
The Embiid One will be available exclusively at eastbay.com on September 18, two weeks before any other retailer. When you purchase a pair you will also receiver a free poster with your order.