A successful NBA Game held over the weekend in Johannesburg, South Africa, marked a new beginning in the history of the game in Africa.
And, to complete the NBA popularity on the continent, there will an unprecedented nine Africa-born players in the NBA rosters in the upcoming 2015-16 season.
Maurice Ndour (Dallas/Senegal), Salah Mejri (Dallas/Tunisia), Walter Tavares (Atlanta/Cape Verde) and Emanuel Mudiay (Denver/DR Congo) have signed their first contracts with NBA teams, and will be joining Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City Thunder/Congo), Gorgui Dieng (Minnesota Timberwolves/Senegal), Luol Deng (Miami Heat/South Sudan), Mbah a Moute (free-agent/Cameroon), and Festus Ezeli (Golden State Warriors/Nigeria).
Yanick Moreira (Angola) and Youssou Ndoye (Senegal) have pre-season agreements with the Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs, respectively, and if all goes according to they plans, the number of Africa-born players could reach a record eleven players in a single season.
And, if the NBA Game Africa is to continue, we’ll probably have a chance to see some of the new recruits coming home to show their basketball skills as well.
Just the way, Hakeem Olajuwon did during the exhibition game.
Olajuwon, the best Africa-born NBA player in the history the game so far, stepped on court at the age of 52 to remind everyone what made him an Hall of Famer.
In just 2.14 minutes, the Nigerian stole the show, executing his celebrated Dream Shake move in front of Montenegrin Nikola Vucevic to score his two points for the delight, not only of the sellout crowd at the Ellis Park arena, but also for fans worldwide who tuned into Youtube videos to revive Olajuwon’s greatness.
He reminded us that a a prolific scorer never forgets.
Team World ended up winning by a 101-97 score. Team Africa was led by Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 22 points and Luol Deng’s 20 points and coached by Gregg Popovich.
The growth of the NBA basketball has become even more intense in the past few years, specially with the Basketball Without Borders, an FIBA/NBA initiative.
And the NBA Africa came to Africa to stay.