NBA stars to play in Johannesburg in first Africa game
Johannesburg (AP) Luol Deng and Chris Paul will play in an NBA exhibition game in South Africa on Aug. 1, the league said on Wednesday in its biggest step to win some territory on the soccer-mad African continent.
The NBA and National Basketball Players Association announced details for its first exhibition in Africa, featuring the two All-Stars, and high-profile NBA coaches, including coach of the year Mike Budenholzer of the Atlanta Hawks.
The game will be at Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg, South Africa’s biggest city, and aired live in South Africa and other African countries, the NBA said in a statement.
Deng, who was born in South Sudan, and a two-time All-Star playing for the Miami Heat, will lead Team Africa against Team World, captained by eight-time All-Star Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers.
”I am extremely proud to be a part of the NBA’s first game in Africa,” Deng said.
San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich and NBA commissioner Adam Silver will also attend.
More details of the squads will be announced later, the NBA said.
Basketball is more popular in West Africa than southern Africa, but South Africa’s main cable TV network shows live NBA games, and the NBA has visited the country regularly to hold training and development camps and charity events.
The NBA opened an office in South Africa in 2010, establishing the country as its base to develop a foothold on a continent that still rates soccer as its No. 1 game, but has an audience that’s becoming more receptive to the NBA.
The NBA’s announcement at a news conference in Johannesburg was made by NBA Africa managing director Amadou Gallo Fall, U.S. ambassador to South Africa Patrick S. Gaspard, and South African sports minister Fikile Mbalula. It was broadcast live.
”The NBA has worked hard to grow the game of basketball in Africa, and I am excited to take this next step of playing our first game on the continent,” commissioner Silver said in a statement accompanying the Johannesburg announcement.
More than 35 players from Africa have appeared in the NBA since Hall of Famer and two-time NBA champion Hakeem Olajuwon was drafted by the Houston Rockets in 1984, the NBA said.
Olajuwon, who is from Nigeria, is an NBA Africa ambassador, and fellow great Dikembe Mutombo of Congo is an NBA global ambassador.
The NBA said those two would also attend the exhibition game, which will benefit charities including the foundation of the late Nelson Mandela.