Matt Velazquez: Talked to Giannis Antetokounmpo for a f…

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October 22, 2018 | 8:44 am EDT Update
He tells me that the food comes from his chef, who stops by four or five times a week to drop off meals. It’s the superstar athlete’s attempt at a more carefully crafted diet, a corrective to the eating habits that became the object of scrutiny and Internet laughter a few years ago, when it was reported that Embiid consumed pitchers of Shirley Temples. Embiid used to drink one (a single Shirley Temple, not a pitcher’s worth) almost every day but has since cut back to merely “once in a while,” he tells me while grabbing a bottled water from the fridge, as if to prove his point. (Bill Self, Embiid’s coach at Kansas, tells me that Embiid was the “least mature eater” he’s ever seen: “This dude would come to the house and go right to the plate of brownies and take the plate home, and that would be all that he would eat.”) Of course, the diet is only one piece in a much larger puzzle, one that has proved to be the hinge on which Embiid’s career swings from dormant to dominant: his body.
Of course, Embiid didn’t grow up dreaming of being a volleyball player. He wanted to be… an astronaut, which he realizes now was a job not likely to be showcased at his middle school career fair. “[In] Cameroon, we don’t know shit about space,” he says. “I don’t even know if there’s a Cameroonian astronaut. That’s what I wanted to become. I wanted to become President and I wanted to become an astronaut. Because I was really good at math.”
There are 48 stories in the luxury high-rise Joel Embiid calls home. Joel Embiid does not live on the 48th floor. “I don’t have that type of money,” he says. “All my money goes back to Africa.” (Conveniently, he just signed a new shoe deal with Under Armour, the specific details of which were not released, but it reportedly gives him gobs of money and includes charitable initiatives back in Cameroon and in Philly.)
When a reporter at media day asked Jokic whether he could buy some swagger with all his money, he claimed not to know what swagger is. When asked about LeBron James signing with the Lakers, he expressed amazement that one player could single-handedly change a franchise. People around the Nuggets think Jokic has done the same thing, but you would never hear that from him. “It’s not like that. We have the same team, same core, since I came here,” he said. “We just need a little bit of help, and I think we’ll be good.”