Like many players in today's NBA, Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid was inspired by late Los Angeles Lakers legend Kobe Bryant. Embiid has previously credited Bryant as the reason that he became interested in basketball, and after Philadelphia's 118-104 win over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night, Embiid again discussed the impact that Bryant had on his career.
"I was about 13 or something like that," Embiid said. "It was the Finals against Boston and it was my first time watching NBA basketball and it happened to be on the Lakers. All I kept hearing about was Kobe, and they won that year. That was the first time I watched and that was also when I fell in love with basketball, and that's why he became my favorite player. I will say that I'm probably here because of him."
In addition to idolizing Bryant, Embiid also studied his game and tried to incorporate aspects of it into his own play. If you ever thought that Embiid's own fadeaway was reminiscent of Bryant's, you were correct.
Embiid on Kobe:— Brock Landes (@LandesBrock) May 8, 2021
“Watching the  Finals, that was the turning point of my life. Just watching that Finals & watching Kobe. After watching, I just wanted to be like him. I just wanted to play basketball...he meant a lot for me.”
Thank you for preserving greatness @DrewHanlen pic.twitter.com/2zykuyi45R
"Kobe, we miss him a lot. I miss him a lot," Embiid added. "He was my favorite player and even when you watch the way I play basketball and the moves that I've added, especially when it comes to fadeaways over both shoulders, that comes from a lot of tapes on Kobe's game. I miss him a lot. I wish he was still here with us."
Embiid has honored Bryant, who is set to be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame this month, several times since his death last year. In the first game he played after Bryant's death, Embiid wore the No. 24 in honor of the Lakers legend and he scored exactly 24 points in the game. That point total wasn't an accident. Embiid also wore a pair of shoes that paid tribute to Bryant and his daughter Gianna earlier this season.
Ultimately though, Embiid thinks that the best way to honor Bryant's legacy is to respect the game that Kobe dedicated his life to.
"Just looking at his career and what he was about, that Mamba mentality, it was about outworking your opponent, outworking everybody else," Embiid said last year. "I know he would've wanted everybody to go out there and compete hard, play the game, and try to win. That's what he was about.. That's how you honor him. You go out there and you do your best, you keep working hard."
Bryant may be gone, but his legacy -- and the impact that he had on the game -- will live on through the millions of players, like Embiid, who he inspired during his playing days.