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, which features Team Africa, with players either born on the continent or with direct family ties to it, against a World team, 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.
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.
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.
Team Africa's starting the day with practice at Sun Arena at @timesquareza 🏀🌍 @EvanFourmizz @JoelEmbiid @timcabs @LuolDeng9 @sergeibaka @pskills43 @farouq1 @ianmahinmi @bismackbiyombo @cheick_diallo13 #NBAAfricaGame #BWBAfrica pic.twitter.com/QZvY1ptKff
“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, that people have forgotten about. They are neighbourhoods I’m familiar with and it’s important to make people believe in those areas because its not just about drugs and crime.”
Today’s game is set to tip-off at 5pm. Tickets are still available through computicket.com.