Dikembe Mutombo was a fresh addition to the NBA in the 1990s. He played with a free spirit, and smiled up and down the court. Of course, he was also one of the league's best centers and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2015.

Two decades later, another youngster from Africa is approaching the game with a similar enthusiasm. Joel Embiid showed potential as a rookie last season, and he is perhaps equally known for his jocular behavior off the court --particularly on social media).

"I tell you what, that boy is crazy," says Mutombo, who was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. "He's hilarious. We love him so much. He's a great comedian. He's a great entertainer. He really loves people. That's something I admire so much about him. I think he is who he is. That's how we all were raised. We were raised to be part of the community. I'm so happy with the kid, I'm happy with his career, I'm happy with the talent and the gift god gave to him. I'm just praying a lot that he will get a chance to play a full regular season with no disruption."

Mutombo and Embiid, who is from Cameroon, traveled to Johannesburg last month for the NBA Africa Game 2017. Embiid did not play due to injury, a condition consistent with his NBA experience: Just 31 games -- all in 2016-17 -- since the 76ers drafted him third overall in 2014.

"He was crying," Mutombo says of Embiid being sidelined in South Africa. "He wanted to play so bad. You could see in his eyes. You could see some tears coming.

"You know what, he can play next year. We'll hold a spot for him."

Mutombo played a year and a half in Philadelphia, reaching an NBA Finals along the way. The 76ers have not reached the Eastern Conference Finals since. Embiid still has a window to make the process work.

"It's not an easy town to play, so they'll be waiting for you until you can deliver," Mutombo says.

Mutombo says Embiid can be a superstar NBA player, that is, assuming he can stay on the court.

"He said that he's so happy that I'm talking so much about him, that I say that he's better than me, the way I used to play," Mutombo says. "I told him, yes, you are better. I need to give you credit, young man. You are talented, but you are just not lucky enough to play as many games as I did. If you play as many games as I did, you might be in the Hall of Fame too one day."

Mutombo has been quoted as saying Embiid is "like his son." Like a proud father, Mutombo can be expected to be found around NBA arenas this year following Embiid and the Sixers.

-- Follow Jeff Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband. Like Jeff Eisenband on Facebook.

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