NBA will play exhibition game in Africa
Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports 4:34 a.m. EDT April 22, 2015
The NBA will play its first exhibition game in Africa on Aug. 1 at Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg, South Africa in a Team Africa vs. Team World Cup format.
Miami Heat forward Luol Deng, who was born in what is now South Sudan, will captain the African team and Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul will captain the world team. Full rosters will be announced at a later date.
“I am extremely proud to be a part of the NBA’s first game in Africa,” Deng said in statement. “Coming from South Sudan and having participated in the Basketball without Borders Africa camps in Johannesburg previously, I am truly honored to be part of this historic event.”
The NBA will send big names to the event, including: San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, Brooklyn Nets coach Lionel Hollins, Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens, 2014-15 NBA coach of the year Mike Budenholzer of the Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams, Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, Brooklyn Nets general manager Billy King, NBA global ambassador Dikembe Mutombo and NBA Africa ambassador Hakeem Olajuwon.
“The NBA has worked hard to grow the game of basketball in Africa, and I am excited to take this next step of playing our first game on the continent,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “Our players have been tremendous partners in this effort, and all of us look forward to sharing the authentic NBA experience and the values of our game with fans in Africa.”
The NBA announced the game along with the National Basketball Players Association.
“We recognize that the best ambassadors to grow the game globally are the players themselves,” NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts said. “The league and union have a powerful platform to welcome more players and fans to the sport, and build more opportunities for everyone to experience the game.”
The exhibition game will coincide with the conclusion of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders Africa camp. The NBA has made grassroots progress in Africa, and in 2010, the league opened an office in South Africa headed by Amadou Gallo Fall.
“The NBA Africa Game marks a major milestone in our efforts on the continent, which began more than 30 years ago,” Fall said. “It is a pivotal moment for the growth of basketball on the continent, and we are grateful to the Players Association, players and team personnel who have committed to be part of this historic event.”
Playing an exhibition game in Africa is a significant development for the NBA. The league still wants to help develop talent in Europe, and it’s no secret the league is invested in Asia and India. But Africa is still an opportunity the league values on the business side and basketball side.
“What we’re seeing now with Basketball Without Borders is a big jump in Africa,” NBA senior vice president of international basketball operations Kim Bohuny told USA TODAY earlier this season. “We’ve recently seen some significant increases in participation and also the level of play there, and I don’t see that stopping.”
The NBA, along with FIBA, has taken its Basketball Without Borders camp to Africa 12 times, and more than 1,000 campers from 31 African countries have participated since 2003. Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, a native of Cameroon, participated in Basketball Without Borders camp in 2011.