On August 1, the NBA will play their first game on African soil in Johannesburg, South Africa. The game is in support of the Boys and Girls clubs of South Africa, SOS Children’s Villages of South Africa and the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Team Africa, coached by Gregg Popovich, will play Team World with Lionel Hollins serving as their coach. The game will further increase the NBA’s popularity and presence within Africa.
The NBA recently released the rosters for both teams. Team Africa will be comprised of first or second-generation African players: captain Luol Deng (South Sudan), Al Farouq-Aminu (Nigeria), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Nigeria), Nicolas Batum (Cameroon), Bismack Biyombo (Democratic Republic of Congo), Gorgui Dieng (Senegal), Festus Ezeli (Nigeria), Serge Ibaka (Congo), and Luc Mbah a Moute (Cameroon). Nets General Manger Billy King and Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri, who is of Nigerian descent, serve as the team’s general managers.
For Team World, the NBA will roll out Chris Paul, Bradley Beal, Kenneth Faried, Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol, Jeff Green, Evan Turner, and Nikola Vucevic. Spurs General Manager RC Buford serves as the team’s general manager.
South African NBA fans will get to see some of the best NBA talent available. Paul, Deng and the Gasols should put on quite a show. They’ll get to see and interact with Giannis and his go-go gadget arms. This exhibition should go a long way in building a strong NBA fan base in Africa. Soccer is the premier sport over there, but there’s plenty of room for the NBA to make some headway.
When I spent sometime in Kenya last year, I was shocked at how many NBA jerseys I saw. Their cable stations provide NBA TV, so games are constantly shown there. The international version of NBA TV is arguably better than the version we get here in America. They’re constantly showing games or condensed versions of games, so fans across the globe can be plugged into the league even if they’re in a completely different time zone. With the advent of social media, the NBA should have no problem furthering their global initiative into Africa.
The African exhibition game will air at 9:00 a.m. EST on ESPN.
(Via Super Sport)