On August 1 the National Basketball Association (NBA) will be bringing an exhibition game to Johannesburg, South Africa. This will be the first time that the NBA has taken a game into Africa, and the game will take place at Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg. The game will feature two NBA All-Stars as well as high profile coaches, including the recent coach of the year Mike Budenholzer of the Atlanta Hawks.
Luol Deng, a native of South Sudan and Miami Heat forward, will be one of the All-Stars that will be leading a team during the exhibition. The two teams that will be playing will be Team World and Team Africa. Two time All-Star Deng will be leading Team Africa and eight time All-Star Chris Paul will be leading Team World.
Seeing a NBA exhibition game played in South Africa was a dreamof Deng’s and he is happy to be a part of this historic sporting event. Basketball is much more popular in western Africa than it is in the south, but the NBA is hoping this will change following the event. The NBA already has opened an office in South Africa in 2010 in order to try to get a foothold in the continent. Although South African audiences have become more receptive to basketball the countries favorite sport is, without a doubt, soccer. The game will not only air in South Africa but in other countries across the continent as well.
The game is an extension of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders Program. The program will also be supporting various charities in the region including the Boys and Girls Club of South Africa and the Nelson Mandela Foundation. Their will also be coaching camps and clinics for the regions top youth prospects put on by some of the leagues premier head coaches.
The NBA has not released the rosters of either team as of yet, but Deng’s team will feature first and second generation players from Africa. Timberwolves forward Gorgui Dieng and Thunder forward Serge Ibaka have both announced that they have committed to play the game. The team led by Chris Paul will feature All Stars from the rest of the world. Over the past 30 years the NBA has had at least 35 players with ties to Africa play in the league, including 2015 Hall of Fame inductee Dikembe Mutombo.
Africa is not the only area of the world that will be hosting special camps presented by the NBA. The league will also be having a four day clinic in Cuba for both men and women players in the area. This camp is scheduled to open on Thursday. The league has worked hard to try and expand the game in other parts of the world and may have a way to effectively show the game to international audiences. The exhibition game that will be hosted in South Africa may finally give the NBA a strong fan base in the region, and it is possible that the next NBA All Star could come from the region.
By James Dixson
Photo by: LA’s_Finest – Flickr License