In ESPN’s May cover story, the Philadelphia 76ers, Joel Embiid, discussed his NBA career and his relationship with his girlfriend, Anne de Paula. 

The pair met at a New York City dinner in 2018 through a mutual friend, and Paula revealed to the outlet that neither of them really said much during dinner. She didn’t know that he was a basketball player until he stood up at the end of the meal and she saw how tall he was.

But she said that night was the start of their “beautiful friendship.”

The 26-year-old model told ESPN that they bonded over their shared interests. Both of them had left home as teenagers to pursue their dreams in America, loved soccer, spoke French, and had hopes of starting a family one day.

We FaceTimed every day for a while. He has this personality where he wants to motivate you. That’s the type of person you want to have around.

On Becoming a Father

In September 2020, the couple’s dream of starting a family came true when they welcomed their first child, Arthur Elijah de Paula Embiid, into the world. In true Embiid fashion, the athlete announced the news on social media with a touch of humor.

Embiid uploaded a carousel holding Arthur and a black-and-white photo of him and his wife posing with her pregnant belly. He joked about building a soccer team and wondered if Arthur was the first of his 11 children.

Recently, the NBA player opened up about his first season after the birth of his child and fatherhood to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Marc Zumoff. He shared that while he was disappointed about leaving home, it was still great to watch his son grow every day, and being a father was a fantastic experience. 

I want him to grow up and see his father be at the top of his game, the best in the game. I want him to see his father was a Hall of Famer and (won) titles because I want him to be better than me. 

On Overcoming Obstacles

It is hard to imagine that the 7-foot player once had aspirations of becoming a volleyball player. He had spent most of his childhood playing volleyball. At 15 years old, Embiid gave basketball a shot after being inspired by Hakeem Olajuwon’s grace and elegance on the court.

A year later, Embiid traveled to America to become an NBA player. He spent the following years of his life playing and honing his skills, and in 2014 he was finally drafted by Philadelphia. But even after being drafted, the ascend to the top was difficult. 

He was forced to miss the entire 2014-15 season when the initial foot surgery to repair a navicular bone still caused problems for him. However, he eventually recovered, and by the time the next season rolled around, he proved to all those who doubted him with his quick and graceful footwork and rim protection. 

Today, he is a celebrated NBA player.