The host of superstars heading to the Sun Arena in Tshwane for the third edition of the NBA Africa Game is indicative of the seriousness with which the National Basketball Association view their expansion into Africa.
The list of players announced on Thursday includes All Stars Joel Embiid and DeMar DeRozan and reflects just how much the Africa Game – an exhibition event – has become a part of the NBA’s off-season calendar.
The NBA has taken its expansion into new territories very seriously hosting league games in London, while it has also hosted a number of pre-season events in Beijing, Shanghai and Singapore where the NBA enjoys massive popularity.
The Africa Game is a similar venture, and as NBA vice-president and managing director for Africa, Amadou Gallo Fall explained, it is one that celebrates the history the NBA has in Africa.
“From Hakeem Olajuwon to Dikembe Mutombo, the NBA has long enjoyed talent that has emerged from the continent. We see it today, with the likes of Joel, Al-Farouq (Aminu) and Bismack (Biyombo) who were all inspired by those guys and now want to give back to their communities.
“Our job, one we’re committed to, is to bring the NBA experience to our fans all over the world and Africa is a very special place for our league. We had 14 African-born players on the rosters of different teams on the opening day of the last season. If you count all the second generation players there are more than 40 players this season with direct African links and they are all interested in coming back and getting involved in what is happening here,” said Gallo Fall.
The game will be played on August 4, with tickets going on sale on June 15.
“The NBA is committed to growing the game of basketball on a global basis.
The key drivers of our global expansion is about celebrating the game of basketball and using the celebrity of our brands, our players who are global icons to impact communities and inspire young people.”
Africa is clearly an important area for the NBA and by comparison with other sports and the approach of other federations to growing their brand on the continent, the NBA is very aggressive.
It’s main developmental initiative, the Basketball Without Borders programme, is already in its 16th year and Embiid’s status as one of the biggest names in the NBA is indicative of how well that programme works.
“It is an opportunity to grow the sport in a market that is vibrant, it’s a youth dominated continent, and basketball is the number two sport in the world. Tere is tremendous talent on the continent, so it’s a no-brainer for us, to continue to build a footprint,” Gallo Fall added.
He explained that the NBA would be aiming to move beyond just the annual hosting of an exhibition game as it seeks to further attract youngsters attention.
“This is the third edition, but we will look forward to doing more, doing even bigger things. In some form or fashion we will have an NBA game; it could be two teams playing a pre-season game.
“We look forward to seeing more facilities developing in other countries and staging these big events in other parts of the continent.”
More players as well as coaches for the two teams will be announced in due course.
Team Africa will include: Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers; Cameroon), Al-Farouq Aminu (Portland Trail Blazers; US; parents from Nigeria), Bismack Biyombo (Orlando Magic; Democratic Republic of the Congo), Cheick Diallo (New Orleans Pelicans; Mali), Evan Fournier (Magic; France; parent from Algeria), Serge Ibaka (Toronto Raptors; Republic of the Congo), Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (76ers; France; parent from Democratic Republic of the Congo), and Pascal Siakam (Raptors; Cameroon)
Team World will include: DeMar DeRozan (Raptors; US), Harrison Barnes(Dallas Mavericks; US), Danilo Gallinari (LA Clippers; Italy; BWB Europe 2003), Rudy Gay (San Antonio Spurs; US), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks; US), and Hassan Whiteside (Miami Heat; US)