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'I Really Thought I Wasn't Going to Make It': Joel Embiid Reflects on Scary COVID-19 Battle

The Philadelphia 76ers star keeps it real on what kept him out of the lineup for nine games.

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Image for article titled 'I Really Thought I Wasn't Going to Make It': Joel Embiid Reflects on Scary COVID-19 Battle
Photo: Maddie Meyer (Getty Images)

After missing nine games due to contracting COVID-19, NBA superstar Joel Embiid finally made his return to the court this weekend. And while his Philadelphia 76ers fell short to the Minnesota Timberwolves in his first game back, the talented center is just happy to resume playing the game he loves.

“That jawn hit me hard,” Embiid told reporters after the game. “I really thought I wasn’t going to make it. It was that bad. So, I’m just thankful to be sitting here. I struggled with it, but I’m just glad I got over it and I’m just here.”

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The four-time All-Star is vaccinated, so thankfully things didn’t get as bad as they could have. But per CNN, he admitted to having trouble breathing and “headaches worse than migraines.”

“The whole body was just done, I guess,” he added. “It was not a good time.”

In his first game back, he poured in 42 points and 14 rebounds in 45 minutes of action in Philly’s 121-120 double-overtime loss to the Timberwolves. And if the amount of minutes he was able to play comes as a surprise to you, it was just as much of a surprise to Embiid.

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“Honestly, I did not think I was going to play tonight after the workout last night,” he said. “Really couldn’t go up and down more than three times. I guess, to me it’s a miracle I even played this many minutes.”

One person who was happy to see the 27-year-old back on the court was his bitter rival Karl Anthony Towns, who explained to reporters that whatever issues they’ve had on the floor mean nothing when your health and safety are on the line.

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“I’m very happy he’s come to the other side of COVID,” he said. “We’ve had our thing for a while, but that’s bigger than basketball. It’s bigger than what we have. I’ve seen it kill people. But I’m glad he’s on the other side.”

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As we’ve previously reported at The Root, COVID-19 has taken a tremendous toll on Towns, who’s lost at least eight family members since the pandemic began, including his mother, Jacqueline Cruz, who he lost last summer. In October, the University of Kentucky product admitted that his mental health has suffered as a result of experiencing so much tragedy in such a short amount of time, and that he also lives with survivor’s guilt for being fortunate enough to beat the virus after contracting it himself earlier this year.

“When I went through my COVID thing, and even as bad as it got, and it got pretty close to having the same amount of COVID like my mom had,” he said during an appearance on Peace of Mind with Taraji. “I did, but I felt really bad because I was like, ‘I wish that other families, who weren’t making max money in the NBA, could get the same treatment, and share more memories with each other.’ I don’t want anyone to feel the way I felt. So I felt a lot of survivor’s guilt ‘cause I was just like, ‘I wish they had the resources I had.’”

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We’re all fortunate that after nearly two years of chaos that things are finally starting to return to some sense of normalcy, but COVID is very real so please do what you can to get vaccinated, wear a mask, and stay safe in these streets.