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The NBA Makes Its Africa Debut

A closer look at the players representing Africa at the NBA’s first ever game on the continent.


Image via NBA Africa's Facebook

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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Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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