LOS ANGELES – Some of the NBA’s biggest former and current stars, as well as the African continent’s brightest entrepreneurs, musicians and influencers are set to descend on Johannesburg in August as the NBA Africa Game returns to South Africa for the third time.
NBA Africa vice president Amadou Gallo Fall announced during the NBA All Star Weekend in Los Angeles that the NBA Africa Game between Team World and Team Africa will take place on 4 August in Gauteng at a venue still to be announced.
The game will honour the centenary of the birth of former SA president Nelson Mandela and will be played in support of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
The announcement of the NBA Africa Game returning to Johannesburg was made at a swanky luncheon at the Indigo Hotel in downtown Los Angeles moderated by CNN anchor Isha Sesay.
To give an indication of the growth and importance of NBA Africa’s role to the multibillion dollar NBA organisation, the announcement was attended by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and a host of celebrities, basketball stars and African entrepreneurs.
An indication of the kind of star power soon to descend on Johannesburg again is that the launch was attended by the likes of NBA global ambassador Dikembe Mutombo, NBA players Frank Ntilikina (New York Knicks), Emmanuel Mudiay (New York Knicks), Cheick Diallo (New Orleans Pelicans), Bismack Biyombo (Orlando Magic), actor Djimon Hounsou and singer Akon, among others.
Sesay also moderated an “Africa Now” panel discussion featuring Akon, the World Bank’s vice president for Africa, Makhtar Diop, entrepreneur and Uncharted Play founder Jessica Matthews and Sundial Brands chief executive Richelieu Dennis, the Shea Moisture founder who recently bought Essence Magazine from Time Inc.
SA celebrities who attended included socialites and personalities such as Nomzamo Mbatha and Pearl Thusi, rapper Cassper Nyovest and filmmaker Akin Omotoso.
The first NBA Africa Game took place on 1 August, 2015 at Ellis Park Arena. Team Africa was led by two-time NBA All-Star Luol Deng (Los Angeles Lakers, South Sudan) with Team World being captained by nine-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul (Houston Rockets, United States of America).
The 2017 NBA Africa game at Ticketpro Dome featured African-born and second generation players with Deng and Utah Jazz’s Thabo Sefolosha, whose family hails from Mamelodi, as captains of Team Africa and Team World being led by NBA stars Dirk Nowitzki from the Dallas Mavericks and Kemba Walker from the Charlotte Hornets.
If the launch was anything to go, the 2018 NBA Africa Game is set to be even bigger and better, though no announcements have been made as yet about the venue or team captains and rosters.
Gall Fall said NBA Africa was delighted to again bring some of the organisation’s biggest stars and most influential stakeholders to the African continent for the August game in Johannesburg.
“Hosting the third NBA Africa Game in Johannesburg gives us the chance to celebrate Africa and to celebrate the energy these role models bring for our youth,” said Fall.
“It’s not just about the game being played on the court, we have a whole week where we engage with the community, where we host an innovation summit, where we bring some of the brightest minds across different sectors, in technology, music, fashion and science to come and share their vision with our young people.”
“Basketball is used only as a catalyst. We are saying to Africa’s young people that the dreams they are chasing, if we can create an enabling environment, they can make it happen.
“It’s unbelievably inspiring hearing about Akon lighting Africa, Bismack’s building schools, It’s about an Africa on the global stage that is proud and it’s all about excellence.”
NBA commissioner Silver said in no uncertain terms that the NBA saw the African continent as a major growth opportunity for the organisation from a playing and commercial perspective.
“Africa is one of the fastest-growing continents in the world and the NBA and the sport of basketball is one of the fastest growing sports in the world. The NBA Africa game is not just about sport, but it’s also about business. We see a huge opportunity in Africa,” said Silver.