The NBA is in Africa and we are only a day away from the much-anticipated game between team World and team Africa. The game pits players from Africa and second generation African players that play in the #National Basketball Association league against their fellows in the same league but from the rest of the world. It will be played in support of UNICEF, The Nelson Mandela Foundation, and SOS Children’s Village #South Africa (SOSCVSA). Team world won the first ever NBA’s official game in Africa in 2015, beating team Africa 101-97.

The growth of NBA in Africa

The relationship between Africa and the NBA has been growing. There is a long history that NBA has in Africa. Hakeem Olajuwon was the first player from Africa to play in the NBA when he was drafted in 1984. Manute Bol followed and Dikembe Mutombo came next. Right now Africa has more than 35 players from the continent featured on NBA rosters. NBA even opened an office in Johannesburg in 2010 much to the delight of fans there

One of the ways in which the NBA grows its game in Africa is through Basketball without Borders (BWB). Its goal is to raise basketball awareness in places around the world where the game needs to grow. It taps into largely unexplored areas and raises the interest of young boys and girls toward basketball.

It is funded largely by National Basketball Association (NBA) and International Basketball Federation (FIBA). It was first inaugurated in the year 2001 and since then NBA and FIBA have staged 49 BWB camps in 30 cities in 25 countries on 6 continents. It has hosted more than 2720 participants from 134 countries and territories.

43 BWB campers have been drafted into the NBA. BWB volunteers have been running basketball academies in Africa with the hope that the game will sell in Africa. Already it has gained traction given the increasing numbers of kids who are more than ready to learn how to play basketball. One of the pupils of BWB, Cameroonian Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers will be featuring for team Africa on Saturday.

He attended a clinic many years ago held by Luc Mbah a Moute of the Houston Rockets and he tossed aside his soccer ball and picked the basketball. Now he is a pillar of the Philadelphia 76ers. NBA African legend, Dikembe Mutombo from DRC who is also the NBA global ambassador is regarded as the father of the program.

Line up of events before NBA Africa game 2017

This week BWB has been conducting daily clinics in Johannesburg for teenagers flown in from all over Africa, giving them a chance to learn the much needed fundamental skills from NBA players and coaches. A number of players in the NBA have sacrificed a week of their off-season to spend in Africa and give Africa’s best young players an opportunity of a lifetime.

The program is not meant only to teach basketball but also to teach the young boys and girls life skills. The series of events leading to the NBA Africa game 2017 as lined up by the National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) include a fan zone which is an interactive event for fans with current and former NBA players, an innovation summit that featured discussions meant to address challenges in youth development across Africa, a Junior NBA Africa festival which brought together girls and boys - from Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Senegal - under the age of 14 to compete in a tournament. There is to be a Sports medicine symposium to highlight best practices in player health and wellness.

It will happen on Friday, August 4. And finally, the NBA cares and NBPA foundation

community events: a Special Olympics clinic, a visit to the SOS children’s home, building of homes and a visit to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory. The highlight is an exhibition game on Saturday in Johannesburg: the second ever NBA game on African soil.

Team Africa players for the NBA Africa game 2017

Dennis Schroder (Atlanta Hawks; mother from Gambia), Emmanuel Mudiay (Denver Nuggets; DRC), Salah Mejri (Dallas Mavericks; Tunisia), Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers; Cameroon), Gorgui Dieng (Minnesota Timberwolves; Senegal), Luc Mbah a Muote (Houston Rockets; Cameroon), Victor Oladipo (Indiana Pacers; father from Sierra Leone), Clint Capela(Houston Rockets; parents from Angola and Congo), Serge Ibaka (Toronto Raptors; Congo) Bismack Biyombo (Orlando Magic; DRC), Thabo Sefolosha, Captain (Utah Jazz; parent from South Africa), Luol Deng, co-captain (Los Angeles Lakers; South Sudan)

Team World players for the NBA Africa game 2017

Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors), Andre Drummond (Detroit Pistons), Demarcus Cousins (New Orleans Pelicans), Jaylen Brown (Boston Celtics), Rondae Hollis Jefferson (Brooklyn Nets), Kristaps Porzingis (New York Knicks), Leandro Barbosa (Phoenix Suns), Courtney Lee (New York Knicks), CJ McCollum (Portland Trailblazers), Wilson Chandler (Denver Nuggets) Kemba Walker (Connecticut; co-captain), Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks; Captain)

This year’s game will be played in a larger arena and it will be broadcast on Kwese’ Free Sports.