JOHANNESBURG – For a few hours at least on Saturday evening, the land where ‘Masandawana’, ‘Die Bulle’ and the Titans usually dominate, will be taken over by the National Basketball Association throwing the spotlight on a league and a sport that is at the cutting edge of style and influence.
The NBA is arguably the biggest trend-setter in sport globally and at the Sun Arena in Tshwane, South Africans will get a slice of that hip and cool atmosphere at the third NBA Africa Game. The contest features Team Africa, with players either born on the continent or with direct family ties to it against a Team World, made up of players from the rest of the globe.
All the glitz and razzmatazz that South Africans can only usually get on-line or on television will be available first hand with some of the NBA’s brightest stars swishing, dribbling and dunking their way through about two and half hours of action on Saturday.
Tim Agaba and Liza Gqoboka from @BlueBullsRugby got the chance to hang out with @Khris22m at #BWBAfrica yesterday.
Watch what happens when Agaba & Gqoboka get a basketball in their hands.
Thank you to @NBA_Africa and #BasketBallWithoutBordersAfr pic.twitter.com/VB2ohpXpIx
Joel Embiid, one of the most colourful in the league and a break out star last season, will lead the on-court festivities for Team Africa as they seek to pick up their first win over Team World.
Embiid dismissed talk of treating the game as a pre-season exhibition event. “I’m very serious, everytime I step on the court I want to win. I’m competitive, everybody knows that, it doesn’t matter who I’m playing against, five year old, thirty year old, grown-ass men, I want to win,” said the 24 year old.
Embiid will be joined on Team Africa by Portland Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu, Charlotte Hornets center Bismack Biyombo, Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier and Toronto Raptors forward Serge Ibaka, among others. Team World is headlined by forward Harrison Barnes, Clippers forward Danilo Gallinari, San Antonio Spurs forward Rudy Gay and Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton.
While there’ll be lots of loud tunes - including a half-time performance from local hip-hop star Cassper Nyovest - the NBA has also been keen to highlight the various social initiatives the game is helping to support.
Below: NBA players doing their bit for Habitat for Humanity, building houses in Ennerdale
@OnclephilNba: #raptors Le soutien de Pascal Siakam dans la construction de maisons pour les plus démunis en Afrique du sud #NBAAFRICAGAME #Onclephilbasket #googleplay pic.twitter.com/zBSvdlR5hu https://t.co/xPY5pKepKV
This week it completed the 16th edition of the Basketball Without Borders camp, a development programme that provides opportunities for youngsters across the African continent to try and realise their dreams of making basketball their profession - Embiid is a former graduate of BWB.
They’ve held various events around Gauteng, including assisting with the building of houses in Ennerdale through Habitat for Humanity.
On Thursday Carmelo Anthony, one of the NBA’s top players over the last decade, opened a refurbished basketball court in Jabavu in Soweto. “This is the 24th ‘Courts 4 kids’ court that we’ve unveiled around the world, the first in Africa,” Anthony said at the NBA’s Innovation Summit held at the Nelson Mandela Foundation on Friday.
“It’s not just about giving a basketball court, these are steps we are taking to uplift areas and neighbourhoods, like the one I grew up in in Baltimore; neighbourhoods that people have forgotten about. They are neighbourhoods I’m familiar with and it’s important to make people believe in those areas because it’s not just about drugs and crime.”
Saturday’s game is set to tip-off at 5pm. Tickets are still available through computicket.com.