An exhibition NBA game in Africa opened doors, being the first of its kind in NBA history. Held at Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg, the event featured a team of players born in Africa and second-generation African players, aptly called “Team Africa” and a composed of various current NBA players representing “Team World.”
Fans in attendance roared with elation when long-retired NBA legends Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria) and Dikembe Mutombo (Democratic Republic of Congo) donned jerseys from their former teams and played a bit in the second quarter. At 52 years of age, Olajuwon looked good and even executed his patented “Dream Shake” turnaround jumper, much to the delight of fans and players alike. Team World’s Chris Paul could not help but be in awe of the former Houston Rockets center.
“That’s one of the most memorable experiences ever,” said Chris Paul, one of the team captains. “I told Dream, if he’s still moving like that at his age now, I couldn’t imagine him in his day.”
At the end of the day, Team World came up with a 14-point rally in the fourth quarter to overcome Team Africa and prevail, 101-97. Team Africa’s Luol Deng (Sudan) and Team World’s Chris Paul were named co-MVPs of the game.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver called it “an experiment of sorts,” but was quite pleased at how well received the game was by the fans. This was the first step in the NBA’s attempt to penetrate and cultivate a fan base in a continent that is primarily focused on football. Preseason and regular season games held in Africa could be in the works somewhere further down the pipeline.