Przybilla played two seasons at the University of Minnesota. He left Minnesota during the middle of his sophomore season due to differences with first-year coach Dan Monson. Przybilla was the 9th overall selection in the 2000 NBA Draft, chosen by the Houston Rockets, but traded the same day to the Milwaukee Bucks for their pick, Jason Collier. He has since played for the Bucks, the Atlanta Hawks and the Portland Trailblazers, where he finally made a significant impact during the 2004-2005 NBA season, averaging 7.7 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game.
His nicknames include "The Thrilla", "Joelthrilla", "Joelzilla" and "The Vanilla Gorilla".