Washington—The Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid has signed a shoe deal with Under Armour that will reportedly make the Cameroonian the highest paid center in the NBA.
Embiid, whose contract with adidas ended on September 30, confirmed the deal with a Twitter post and penned a first-person announcement released by Under Armour recalling his relatively late introduction to organized basketball in Cameroon.
He wrote about his younger brother, Arthur, who was killed in a car accident in Cameroon months after Embiid was drafted into the NBA, saying he wants “to do something that would make my brother proud.”
“Basketball has given me everything, but it has to be bigger than basketball, that was the first thing I said to Under Armour,” Embiid wrote. “I want to use this partnership to do something real.”
ESPN reported that the footwear and apparel endorsement deal is for five years, and said unnamed industry sources had told them the average annual value of the deal will make the 24-year-old the highest-paid center in the league.
According to ESPN Embiid was swayed by Under Armour’s commitment to contributing to charitable causes in the Philadelphia area and in Cameroon.
Meanwhile, the saga of disgruntled Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler shows no sign of ending with the start of the NBA season less than a week away.
Timberwolves players confirmed Wednesday that Butler, still technically part of the team since requesting a trade almost a month ago, practiced with the team for the first time since then -- although they shied away from commenting on an ESPN report that Butler tore into both teammates and executives, as well as coach Tom Thibodeau.
“He was around,” Timberwolves veteran Anthony Tolliver cautiously told reporters. “That’s really all I’ve got to say about that.”
Added Jeff Teague: “I’ve seen him.”
ESPN, citing unnamed league sources, said Butler “went out of his way” to challenge young T’Wolves stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins and told general manager Scott Layden “You can’t win without me.”
After reported talks between the Heat and Timberwolves on a deal to send Butler to Miami, the New York Times reported that the Florida club had offered fourth-year swingman Josh Richardson and a protected first-round draft pick as part of a package for Butler.
ESPN reports that the Heat “remain interested in restarting talks with Minnesota.”
In the meantime, Timberwolves players insisted Wednesday that the situation surrounding Butler wouldn’t be a distraction and his departure wouldn’t do significant damage.
“I learned from a very early age, don’t focus on that stuff because that will ultimately distract you,” Tolliver said. “I’m just focused on myself, focused on the guys who are here. Whether he’s here or not, we’ll just focus on who is here.
“Whenever opening night happens, we’ll go out there and play with who we’ve got.”