Basketball fans in Lagos were over the weekend thrilled to watch the first National Basketball Association, NBA game to be played on African soil.
Though the historic event was happening far away in Johannesburg, South Africa, basketball fans in Lagos and its environs were availed the rare opportunity of sharing in the magic moment at the Arena Bar in Lagos where cable network Multichoice Nigeria provided an electrifying atmosphere to herald the event.
For the cross-section of basketball fans present, which included top members of the Nigeria Basketball Federation, NBBF, and high-ranking officials of Multichoice Nigeria, the NBA finally finding its way to Africa, is seen as a big boost for the sports on the continent.
Many also posit that the pivotal role by Nigerians like Hakeem Olajuwon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Massai Ujiri in the Team Africa Vs Team world was a good advertisement for the country and a testimony that talents abound across the length and breadth of Nigeria.
Olajuwon, who was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, before moving to the US to attend high school, college, and play professional basketball in Houston, Texas, made a surprise appearance in the NBA’s inaugural African exhibition game in Johannesburg.
Both Hakeem and Congolese former Denver Nuggets center Dikembe Mutombo delighted the sold out stadium by walking out onto the court in the second quarter to play for Team Africa, wearing a pair of retro-retro-retro uniforms.
“This is one day I am proud to be a Nigerian, seeing my country associated with such a noble show is thrilling,” one of the fans who identified himself as Kollens Udeme, told PREMIUM TIMES
On his part, Al-Farouq Aminu of the Portland Trail Blazers and Nigeria, saidthat the weekend’s experience is special for him.
“It was special”. But there’s still room for improvement, he stated. Team Africa’s Boris Diaw of the San Antonio Spurs said he is eagerly hoping for another chance to play for an African line-up.
Team Africa included National Basketball Association players who were first or second generation Cameroonian, Congolese, Nigerian, Senegalese and South Sudanese.
Team World ended up winning by a 101-97 score. Team Africa was led by Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 22 points and Luol Deng’s 20 points and coached by Gregg Popovich.