Embiid MVP win shows influence of 'Dream Team' on growing basketball globally
Joel Embiid's 2022-23 MVP win shows the influence the 1992 United States men's team had on growing basketball globally, believes his former coach Justin Harden.
The Philadelphia 76ers man claimed the league's top individual honour after back-to-back finalist finishes behind Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic in 2020-21 and 2021-22.
Embiid, who hails from Cameroon, averaged 33.1 points, 10.2 rebounds and 4.2 assists over 66 games, becoming the third straight international player to win the award following Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jokic.
Harden, who coached Embiid during his senior year at The Rock School in Florida, feels his success underlines how the US team that conquered the 1992 Olympic Games helped grow the sport globally.
Commonly referred to as the 'Dream Team', the squad was the first to feature professional NBA players, with a team including Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird cruising to gold medal success in Barcelona.
"When you think about who's in the top ten players [in the NBA], a good host of them are international players," Harden told Stats Perform.
"From Nikola Jokic to Giannis [Antetokounmpo] to Luka Doncic, [and] then you've got a guy who is undoubtedly going to be the number one pick [in Victor] Wembanyama.
"I can imagine he's going to be great too. I think it just is a testament to the Dream Team and their influence on what they did for international basketball playing in Barcelona.
"There's great coaching all throughout the world. The United States is not necessarily the epicentre or the only option for great basketball to be played.
"It's awesome to see that these guys are going to be MVP. Luka could be the next MVP, and then you have four in a row that are international guys.
"I think it's really neat to see that our game has become such a global sport, because when Joel was here, we had 13 guys on our team, and seven of them were international players, five of them from the continent of Africa.
"We've always cherished what international players can bring to our programme."
Having known Embiid from such a young age, Harden is proud of both the player and the man Embiid has become, saying: "I'm super excited for him. I mean, this is like a breakthrough moment.
"He's had a couple of runner-up finishes, and so it's good to see him be able to break through and have another great season, I think his third in a row.
"I think this was the best one because he withstood from being injured. I think the last two seasons were hampered by his injuries and so out of his control, but his play was certainly great.
"I'm super excited for him. He's a good guy. I knew him when he was a boy, a young boy becoming a man.
"Now he's a grown man. He's got a family. As much as I'm excited to see him win MVP, I'm also equally excited to see him as a father and as a husband."