Athlete No One Saw Coming, Joel Embiid

The All-Star No One Saw Coming

Joel Embiid’s odds of success in basketball were over 20 million to one–now he’s working to improve the odds for the next generation

Most of the greatest successes in life and in sports are brought on by a profound change. And these big changes don’t come easily—a willingness to adapt takes bravery and determination. Finding comfort in the unknown allows us to live out our true potential instead of cowering from the next big move. Joel Embiid has allowed change to propel him forward and never let comparisons slow him down. Through the new Athlete No One Saw Coming campaign, Under Armour wants youth athletes to do the same and keep moving as they forge their own paths to greatness.


Joel’s story is one that sends chills up sports fans' spines. Growing up in Yaoundè, Cameroon, Joel Embiid played volleyball for most of his childhood. However, at age 15, he sought out a new sport entirely and picked up a basketball for the first time. The odds were stacked against him from the beginning, but just one year later, at the age of 16, Joel left his home of Cameroon to play high school basketball in Florida. The year after that, he committed to Kansas and was a finalist for the Naismith College Player of the Year. By now, Joel has cemented his name as one of the basketball greats, dominating for the 76ers and lighting up the court in the 2022 All-Star Game.

“You never know which opportunity is the opportunity. Focus on yourself and be ready to conquer the next big thing.”

Joel Embiid

Professional Basketball Player & Power Forward for the Philadelphia 76ers

Since his youth, Joel has understood that he must “trust the process” and create his own path—but that doesn’t mean it’s been an easy journey. Moving to a new country at an early age, long hours of practice, and the tragic passing of his brother, Arthur Embiid, made a time of significant change even more tumultuous. Throughout grief and doubt, basketball remained a constant that helped him process his emotions, get to know himself, and find joy.

“Adversity and change have a way of strengthening us as people and as athletes. Difficult times force us to rely on ourselves and shut out the noise and expectations of others. Joel is an incredible example of this attitude and resilience.”

Sean Eggert

SVP of Global Sports Marketing at Under Armour

Now, Joel pays forward the support and optimism that he needed in the darkest times of his basketball career. With the help of Under Armour, Joel has dedicated the Arthur Embiid Athletics Court at the NE Frankford Boys & Girls Club in Philadelphia to his late brother in hopes to pass on his generous spirit. Joel also works closely with other youth organizations in Philadelphia to make sure future All-Stars have everything they need to meet change head-on and stay true to themselves. Rather than give into comparison and give up on their dreams, Joel hopes to inspire young athletes to let each hurdle motivate them.


Taking his mission a step further, Joel announced the launch of a new philanthropic platform, the “In Memory of Arthur'' (IMOA) Initiative, which will help foster positive change in Philadelphia by investing in some of the city’s most impactful non-profits: Philadelphia Youth Basketball League, New Options More Opportunities (NoMo), YEAH! Philly, and Boys & Girls Club Philadelphia. Bolstered by contributions from Under Armour, the IMOA Initiative has pledged $1 million to these organizations over the next three years.

“Joel has a storied history of supporting the Philadelphia community by creating opportunities for young people. We share a like-minded commitment to purposeful work, creating pathways to success for the next generation. We’re honored to support the IMOA initiative and work with Joel and these organizations to continue to positively impact the lives of Philly youth for years to come.”

Flynn Burch

Director of Global Philanthropy at Under Armour

As seen in his latest content with UA, Joel’s determination to beat the odds combined with his generosity toward the next generation of athletes show why breaking down barriers for the next generation is so crucial to increasing Access to Sport. Joel’s story is a true personification of what the Athlete No One Saw Coming is all about: tuning out comparisons, forging your own path to success, and playing the game you want to play, not the one others think you should. Despite hardships and intense pressure, Joel has remained centered in his abilities and dedicated to making sports more accessible to all.

Athlete No One Saw Coming, Joel Embiid
Athlete No One Saw Coming, Joel Embiid

Access to Sport 


For more information on Under Armour’s Access to Sport commitment and how the brand is creating opportunities for millions of youth to engage in sport by 2030.