The competition wasn’t exactly playoff-caliber during the NBA’s first ever exhibition on African soil, but that was to be expected. It’s still the offseason, after all, and training camp is just around the corner. Now is hardly the time for some of the league’s biggest stars to risk injury by playing full-tilt in a glorified scrimmage.
Rest assured, though, that those attending Saturday’s landmark event in Johannesburg got their money’s worth. Why? Not just for their first chance to watch the world’s best players run up and down in person, but also because a pair of retired African legends made a surprise appearance.
Mount Mutombo (kind of) blocked Trey Burke’s woeful floater, and the The Dream went to work down low on Nikola Vucevic:
Chris Paul seemed in absolute awe of Olajuwon’s form. “”That’s one of the most memorable experiences ever,” he told the Associated Press. “I told Dream, if he’s still moving like that at his age now, I couldn’t imagine him in his day.”
Led by 18 points from Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal, Team World defeated Team Africa 101-97. This exhibition, though, was never going to be about on-court play. Instead, the inaugural contest in Africa would serve as yet another opportunity for the league to broaden its global horizons.
And with the help of Mutombo and Olajuwon, the NBA seemed to have accomplished that goal with flying colors.