On August 1st, 2015, NBA fans from all across the continent of Africa, congregated at the Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg, South Africa for the first ever NBA Africa Game. It wasn’t just the first NBA game, it was also the first ever game featuring any North American professional sports league on the continent of Africa.
The game was held between Team Africa, which featured NBA players who were born/had parents born in Africa and Team World, which featured NBA players from the rest of the world. Team NBA was captained by Luol Deng (from South Sudan) and coached by San Antonio Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich with Mike Budenholzer and Monty Williams as assistants. The team was managed by Nets GM Billy King. Team World was captained by Chris Paul (from the United States of America) and coached by Brooklyn Nets Head Coach Lionel Hollins with Brad Stevens as the assistant. The team was managed by Spurs GM, R.C. Buford. Even though it was an exhibition game, it was a closely fought contest and Team World ultimately emerged victorious. The final score was 101-97. Luol Deng and Chris Paul shared the MVP honours for the game. The second NBA Africa Game was announced for August 5th, 2017 in Johannesburg.
The Ticketpro Dome in Johannesburg, South Africa hosted the second NBA Africa Game in 2017. Team Africa was captained by Luol Deng and Thabo Sefolosha (born in South Africa) while Team World was captained by Kemba Walker (from the United States of America) and Dirk Nowitzki (from Germany). Alvin Gentry of the New Orleans Pelicans, Mike Malone of the Sacramento Kings and Eric Spoelstra of the Miami Heat participated as coaches. Team World got off to a great start and pulled away at the end to win 108-97. Team Africa’s Victor Oladipo was awarded the MVP honours for his stellar performance in the exhibition game. The 3rd NBA Africa Game was slated for a return to South Africa on August 4th, 2018.
On May 31st, 2018, the venue was announced to be the Sun Arena in Time Square, Pretoria, South Africa.
Team Africa will feature a strong line-up of players like Philadelphia 76ers’ superstar center Joel Embiid (from Cameroon), Portland Trailblazers’ Al-Farouq Aminu (parents from Nigeria), Orlando Magic’s Bismack Biyombo (from Democratic Republic of the Congo), New Orleans Pelicans Cheick Diallo (from Mali), Orlando Magic’s Evan Fournier (parent from Algeria), Toronto Raptors’ Serge Ibaka (from Democratic Republic of the Congo), Oklahoma City Thunder’s Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (parent from Democratic Republic of the Congo), and Toronto Raptors’ Pascal Siakam (from Cameroon).
Team World will include players like San Antonio Spurs’ DeMar DeRozan (from the United States of America), Dallas Mavericks’ Harrison Barnes (from the United States of America), Los Angeles Clippers’ Danilo Gallinari (from Italy), San Antonio Spurs’ Rudy Gay (from the United States of America), Milwaukee Bucks’ Khris Middleton (from the United States of America), and Miami Heat’s Hassan Whiteside (from the United States of America).
The 16th edition of Basketball Without Borders (BWB), Africa will precede the NBA Africa Game 2018. Since this year also happens to be Nelson Mandela‘s 100th birth anniversary, the NBA is going to honour the South African icon by playing the game in support of the Nelson Mandela foundation.
The last two NBA Africa games which were held in Johannesburg in 2015 and 2017, were completely sold out and the proceedings went into the support of charities including UNICEF, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and SOS Children’s Villages South Africa (SOSCVSA). The NBA is dominated by African-American players, with more than 80 current or former NBA players being African or having direct family ties with Africa. Two of those players happen to be Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwon (from Nigeria) and Dikembe Mutombo (from the Democratic Republic of Congo).
The continent of Africa, though extremely rich in natural resources, is the poorest continent on earth. It’s rife with civil wars and epidemics. Help from the outside world is very crucial for the eventual upliftment of the continent and the NBA is doing the noble job of healing with the power of sports. As the world becomes more and more interconnected, the privileged have a moral responsibility to help uplift the underprivileged, in whatever way they can
Here are some soundbytes from NBA players and executives involved with the game.
Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner:
“We are deeply honored to be a part of the centennial celebration of President Mandela’s birthday. Our third NBA Africa Game and 16th Basketball Without Borders Africa camp will embody one of the most enduring parts of his legacy, which is the belief that sports have the power to inspire and change the world.”
Michele Roberts, NBPA (National Basketball Players Association) Executive Director:
“With origins from all over the world, our players understand the global reach of the sport of basketball and remain committed to making an impact on the continent through this third Africa Game. We look forward to continuing this tradition with the NBA and strengthening the presence of basketball in Africa and around the world.”
Amadou Gallo Fall, NBA Vice President and Managing Director for Africa:
“Hosting the NBA Africa Game for the third time in four years is a testament to our commitment to growing the game in Africa. We look forward to working with the NBPA once again and all our partners to bring the authentic NBA experience to our fans in South Africa and the rest of the continent. This game and the community events in the week leading up to it will further build on our efforts to use the transformative power of the game of basketball to foster positive social change.”
Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers, from Cameroon):
“I was fortunate to participate in Basketball Without Borders Africa first as a camper and then last year as a coach. To play in the NBA’s third game in Africa is truly special to me, and I can’t wait to take the floor in front of our fans in Africa.
DeMar DeRozan (San Antonio Spurs, United States of America):
“I am proud to represent Team World in the third NBA Africa Game. Some of my teammates played in the previous two games, and I have heard a lot of great things about South Africa and our fans there. I’m looking forward to visiting the continent for the first time this summer.”
*Update on the Team World roster – San Antonio Spurs’ DeMar DeRozan has withdrawn from the Africa game. He wants to use the time to get his affairs in order, following his blockbuster trade from Toronto to San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard, sources close to the player said.