2017 NBA Africa Game is the latest example of the league’s growth in the continent
Festus Ezeli, Bismack Biyombo and more will participate as the NBA expands its global reach
Basketball gave injured Portland Trail Blazers center Festus Ezeli a free education, an NBA title and so much more. And whether the Nigeria native is healthy or not this offseason, he plans to be in South Africa in August to promote hoops in his homeland in hopes that other countrymen will benefit the same way he did.
The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association announced Saturday that the second NBA Africa Game will take place on Aug. 5 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The first took place on Aug. 1, 2015, in Johannesburg. The game follows the 15th edition of the Basketball Without Borders Africa basketball camp and will be played in support of UNICEF, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and SOS Children’s Villages South Africa.
“I love that basketball is going all over the world, especially to Africa,” Ezeli told The Undefeated. “For an immigrant from Nigeria, the game of basketball changed my life. It gave me a footprint in the American community. It fuels my passion, it has become my job, but most importantly, it afforded me the luxury of graduating from Vanderbilt University.
“The game has opened many doors for me throughout my life. I want kids to know it’s beyond the actual physical game. I want them to see how much opportunity it has provided my family and I, while knowing it can be them, too. And when they get there, I pray they understand how vital it is to keep spreading the same message.”
Orlando Magic center Bismack Biyombo (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Portland Trail Blazers guard C.J. McCollum (United States) and Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay (Democratic Republic of the Congo) have all committed to participate in the game. Ezeli plans to attend the game and hopes to play if he knee is in good shape. The exhibition contest will again include a Team World vs. Team Africa concept. More players will be named at a later time. The NBA also plans to open its first African academy in Thies, Senegal, in May to offer an elite training center for boys and girls at the under-16 and under-18 levels.
“Basketball is witnessing explosive growth in Africa,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said. “Our return to Johannesburg this summer is part of the league’s continued commitment to bring the authentic NBA experience to fans around the world. I would like to thank the NBPA for their participation and for being terrific partners on this game and surrounding events.”