Joel Embiid was born on March 16, 1994, in Yaoundé, Cameroon, to Thomas and Christine Embiid. He grew up with a younger brother and sister and played several sports as a child. The Philadelphia 76ers star now lives in Philadelphia with his girlfriend Anne de Paula and their son Arthur.
Here’s what you need to know about Joel Embiid’s family:
1. Joel Embiid Was Born & Raised in Cameroon & Had a Stable & Comfortable Upbringing
Embiid grew up in Cameroon, the oldest of three children born to Thomas and Christine Embiid. He performed very well in school and was an athletic boy, talented at both soccer and volleyball. His parents were very watchful over their kids and made sure he focused on school and sports only, they told Bleacher Report.
“Joel didn’t lack anything,” Embiid’s father told the publication. “He always had food on the table and plenty of clothes. The school system was fine. He was never in any trouble. It was a good environment, a good situation.” The family was described as “upper middle-class” in a Sports Illustrated feature. They owned a Mercedes, the family had a maid, and the children ate well, the publication wrote.
The family lived in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, a city of just over 2.5 million where both French and English are spoken. The basketball court in Embiid’s neighborhood of Nlongkak was in pretty rough shape, Grantland reported. “It slopes. It cracks. In places it juts,” the publication wrote. Embiid was coached by Guy Moudio of the Kossengwe Basketball Club.
When he was 16 years old, he moved to the U.S. to play at Montverde Academy in Florida, then transferred to The Rock School in Gainesville to get more playing time. The Sixers star said it was hard to leave his family. “Just imagine walking away from your whole family like that,” he told Bleacher Report. “It’s not easy.”
He joked that when he started playing with his American teammates in high school, they didn’t realize that he was “a little soft,” he told Sports Illustrated. “They just knew I was from Africa. They thought I grew up poor, in the jungle, killing lions. I was like, ‘If that’s how they think of me, I’m going to use it.’”
2. Joel Embiid’s Father, Thomas Embiid, Is a Colonel in the Military & Wasn’t Sold on His Son Playing Basketball at First
Embiid’s father, Thomas Embiid, was an athlete himself when he was younger, playing handball professionally, NBC Sports reported. He then worked as a colonel in the Cameroon military.
Embiid’s father put an emphasis on academics when it came to his children and wanted his son to play volleyball instead of other sports, as it was low contact. “I want him to focus on school,” he said, according to Grantland.
Joe Touomou, another Cameroonian who played Division I basketball in the U.S. and then pursued a career in the basketball industry, told Embiid’s father, “If you let him play basketball, he might not need to go to school. Someday he might be able to buy his own school,” he recalled to the publication. Colonel Embiid eventually agreed.
Embiid said his uncle was also helpful in convincing his father, he told Sporting News. In addition to their pitches to the colonel, Embiid’s father saw his son’s move to the U.S. as a major opportunity for his boy as he’d been pushing for him to get a good education.
He visited his son on a few occasions during his high school and college years and saw the work that Embiid put in. “Being a colonel in [the] military, I know there is no pain, no gain,” Thomas Embiid told Bleacher Report. “If you want something you’ve got to go hard for it. I understand any philosophy that is about pushing people to the limit and being hard on somebody in order to get something from them.”
Embiid has described his father as “calm and quiet,” and said he always seemed very serious and tough, but told ESPN that his dad is now a doting grandfather. He said he was shocked when his parents visited him, his fiancée and his son. “I’ve never seen him smile my whole life,” the Sixers star told the publication. “And since he’s been here, he’s just been smiling all over the place. Every time he sees [my son Arthur], when he’s holding him. I’ve never seen this in my life.”
3. Joel Embiid’s Younger Brother Arthur Was Killed in 2014, When He Was 13 Years Old
In 2014, tragedy struck the Embiid family. His younger brother, Arthur, died on October 16, when he was just 13 years old. “He was walking back home from school with some of his classmates when he was struck by a truck,” Embiid wrote in an essay for the Players’ Tribune. “He was so full of life, and somehow he was just gone.”
Embiid wrote that his younger brother was the one who was always full of energy and people gravitated toward him.
He wrote that he almost didn’t attend the basketball camp that got him discovered because he was too scared, and skipped the first day to play FIFA with his brother instead. When his father found out, he made him go to the camp and his journey to the NBA began in earnest. “But for that one day me and Arthur just had fun,” Embiid wrote. “And you know what? I could probably remember that afternoon better than I can remember a lot of the biggest basketball moments in my life.”
When Embiid left Cameroon for the U.S., it was the last time he saw his brother, as he didn’t get the chance to visit for the next few years. He wrote that he thought they had “all the time in the world” to visit each other.
After his brother’s death, Embiid wrote that he wanted to quit basketball and move back to Cameroon to be with his family. “I felt like I had lost my purpose in life,” he wrote. “I just pushed on… A lot of days, it sucked. A lot of days, I just wanted to get on a flight back home. I wanted to quit, but I just kept putting in the work every day for two years to try to get healthy, to try to get better, to try to take one step onto an NBA court. I felt like if I did that, then my brother would be really proud of me.”
In 2022, Embiid launched “In Memory of Arthur” (IMOA), an initiative to invest in some of Philadelphia’s non-profit organizations, the NBA announced. Embiid explained that his younger brother, even as a young boy, was generous and selfless. “What I remember from him the most was how great of a person he was,” Embiid told ESPN. “He used to take stuff from the house and go help people around the neighborhood. People that didn’t have anything.”
Embiid and his partner Anne de Paula also honored his brother by naming their firstborn son Arthur.
4. Joel Embiid Is in a Relationship With Anne de Paula, a Brazilian Model, & They Share a Son Together
Embiid is dating Anne de Paula, a model from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. De Paula shared that she grew up around the favelas in the city, close to the beach.
She gave no thought to modeling when she was younger, preferring to spend her time playing soccer with the neighborhood boys. “I was a goalkeeper for five or six years,” she shared with Sports Illustrated Swimsuit. “That was everything I wanted to do. I started playing when I was 8, 9 years old. Because my father never had a boy he was always pushing me to play soccer.”
De Paula played for her city team and her school team but stopped at around the age of 12 or 13 when she took up modeling. De Paula’s father was a nurse, her mother worked in X-rays, and her uncle was a cardiologist, so the model always thought she’d go down the medical path as well. She told Fox that she loves babies and wanted to help women deliver them.
She said she hadn’t really thought about modeling until her mother was approached by someone in the city about a photoshoot and she agreed to do it. She ended up loving it, as she could tap into the “girly version” of herself, she told Fox News.
De Paula and Embiid met at a dinner hosted by a mutual friend in New York City in 2018, she shared with ESPN. “It started off as a beautiful friendship,” she explained. The two bonded over their love of soccer. They both spoke French and also had a shared experience of having left their home countries to pursue a dream in the U.S.
Two years after they started dating, the couple welcomed their firstborn, a boy named Arthur Elijah De Paula Embiid, on September 17, 2020. Their son is named after Embiid’s younger brother Arthur, who was hit by a truck when he was 13 years old, walking home from school.
In a 2023 press conference, Embiid referred to De Paula as his “fiancée,” although neither has publicly posted about the engagement.
5. Joel Embiid Said His Family Is the Most Important Thing in His Life
Embiid is fairly private when it comes to his family, but has shared before that family is what’s most important to him. “I’m all about family,” he revealed in a press conference. “I don’t talk about it a lot. My son I would say is probably the biggest part of it.”
He shared that his parents have supported him from day one, before joking, “I’m still kind of pissed at my dad because he didn’t let me start playing basketball until 15. Who knows what I could’ve been if I had started earlier. But he made the right decision. Everything happens for a reason.” He said his mother didn’t really have an interest in sports but wanted him to be happy and healthy.