The NBA Playoffs are in focus at present with the best teams in the NBA all working towards the ultimate goal of becoming the NBA Champions. While that is today’s priority African NBA fans are also keeping one eye on the impending second-ever NBA game on the African continent.
Last week the NBA Africa office put the NBA Africa Game 2017 back in focus as Africa’s showpiece NBA event approaches on the horizon with 5 August not too far off. A tip off function was held at The Venue in Melrose Arch in Johannesburg with some of the continents brightest stars in attendance. From WNBA superstar Chiney Ogwumike to musical powerhouses Shekhinah (SA) and Tiwa Savage (Nigeria). The event was held to keep local audiences in the loop as to what the future developments will be as the game draws closer and also served as the debut event for Akin Omotoso’s NBA Africa Game 2015 documentary. It was also the first chance for African NBA fans to join in the excitement as the build up continues towards this prestigious and thrilling event.
Amadou Gallo Fall, NBA Vice President & Managing Director for Africa, feels this is a special game that helps bring people together and also showcases the diverse nature of the NBA today, “We will look to continue to raise the bar in terms of our effort to grow the popularity of basketball, to continue to inspire the future generations, boys and girls. This is the youngest continent in the world with a lot of potential for basketball development. We have a growing number of African players playing in our league and we’re very proud of the commitment to coming back every summer in their respective countries to do camps. Whether it’s Bismack Biyombo, Gorgui Dieng or Luol Deng, Luc Mbah a Moute, across the board. Even some of the younger guys, I was talking to Joel (Embiid) in New Orleans and he wants to be part of the whole movement. We’re going back to Cameroon, I’m sure it will be the same for Pascal Siakam.”
The NBA Africa Game 2017 will be a chance for many of the players involved to give back while on the continent. Basketball without Borders is an event that the NBA holds dear as it helps young players with not only skills development but also with personal development as well. Basketball without Borders will also form part of the build up to the game in August. Gallo Fall explained that the Africa Game and the events around it form part of the NBA’s broader push to get more fans excited about the sport of basketball as a whole, to help them dream as they watch their heroes take to the court. “The game is going to be that aspirational event, it’s going to signal to the continent that we are really committed to growing the sport here, because we could have just left it at 2015 and have done a one off, but our commitment is for the long run and I think bringing to our fans what we take on a global basis, to showcase the talent from all around the world. To celebrate the diversity of the NBA as you have a Team Africa and a Team World made up of players from the US, Europe, Latin America, Asia. It’s a unique thing.”
There is also a link between the NBA Africa Game and the current Playoff landscape with a few of the players who participated in the game in 2015 taking part in the postseason. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Chris Paul, Luc Mbah a Moute, Pau and Marc Gasol and Bradley Beal to name a few, are all playing Playoffs basketball. On the coaching front as well, Gregg Popovich and Brad Stevens will also be steering their teams during the Playoffs and they were part of the Africa Game in 2015. It goes to show the level of talent that the Africa Game brings to African fans. The NBA has also confirmed that Congolese pair Bismack Biyombo and Emmanuel Mudiay would be among the participants for Team Africa in 2017, while CJ McCollum of the Portland Trailblazers will be on Team World.
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With the Africa Game still a short while away the Playoffs are the main focus an they will be thrilling through out. Gallo Fall was looking forward to the NBA Playoffs like any hoops fan would and he’s happy to see some players with African roots will also be taking some of the spotlight this postseason, “I think we were fortunate to have Giannis (Antetokounmpo) here in 2015 I mean he is obviously a budding young superstar who made the starting lineup for the All-Star Game in February and he’s continuing to grow under the mentorship of a great coach in Jason Kidd, who I’ve had the honour of working with when we were at the Mavs. Serge (Ibaka) since moving to Toronto, and all the great work that Masai Ujiri is continuing to do there, you know he’s going to be somebody that I’m pretty sure fans across Africa will be rooting for. Look, for me the Playoffs is really about that ultimate level of competition that as a basketball fan I’m always excited to have come around.”
By Cyrus Rogers
@cyrusjrogers on Twitter