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The NBA Makes Its Africa Debut

This Saturday, the NBA will hold its first ever exhibition game on the continent of Africa. Taking place at Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg, the sold-out game will pit Team Africa, led by South Sudan’s Luol Deng of the Miami Heat, against Team World, led by Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers.

The game will see NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, NBA Africa Managing Director Amadou Gallo Fall (Senegal), NBA “Global Ambassador” Dikembe Mutumbo (DRC), NBA Africa Ambassador Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria), as well as Toronto Raptors GM Masai Ujiri (Nigeria) all in attendance.

The NBA, in its press release for the game, boasts that 35 African players have played in the league since Olajuwon arrived in Houston some 30+ years ago.

In the week leading up to the game, NBA players, coaches and legends are holding sessions on leadership and health and wellness for 59 of the top young players on the continent as part of the 13th edition of Basketball Without Borders Africa.

“I am extremely proud to be a part of the NBA’s first game in Africa,” says Deng. “Coming from South Sudan and having participated in the Basketball without Borders Africa camps in Johannesburg previously, I am truly honored to be part of this historic event.”

Joining Deng on the roster for Team Africa is Al-Farouq Aminu (Nigeria), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Nigeria), Nicolas Batum (Cameroon), Bismack Biyombo (DRC), Boris Diaw (Senegal), Gorgui Dieng (Senegal), Festus Ezeli (Nigeria), Luc Mbah a Moute (Cameroon), Congolese forward Serge Ibaka (who will travel but due to injury won’t play), and last-minute addition Nazr Mohammed (Ghana).

Team World’s roster, in addition to NBA Players’ Association president Chris Paul, includes Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards; U.S.), Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets; U.S.), Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies; Spain) and his brother Pau Gasol (Chicago Bulls), Jeff Green (Grizzlies; U.S.), Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics; U.S.), Evan Turner (Celtics; U.S.), and Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic; Montenegro). Brooklyn Nets coach Lionel Hollins will be drawing up Xs and Os for Team World.

In the following pages, we take a closer look at the players representing Africa at the NBA’s first ever game on the continent.

Writer and videographer Sama’an Ashrawi was once in a Waka Flaka video. Follow him on Twitter at @samaanashrawi.

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