African stars make it to NBA All-Star Game
On March 2, 1951 the Boston Garden hosted the first ever NBA All-Star game in an effort to regain a positive light on the game of basketball after the college basketball point shaving scandal. Walter A Brown, the founder and original owner of the Boston Celtics came up with the idea to introduce what has since become the most exciting weekend in NBA basketball – the All-Star Weekend.
Over the years we have seen the NBA making intentional moves to take the game all over the world with rosters featuring players from 38 countries. Thanks to programs like Basketball without Borders, Africans have occupied spots on rosters and the spotlight. Just last year Masai Ujiri (Nigerian), Pascal Siakam (Cameroonian) who also won Most Improved Player and Serge Ibaka (Congolese) won an NBA Championship. Let’s not forget the regular season Most Valuable Player, Giannis Antetokounmpo (Nigerian-Greek) of the Milwaukee Bucks who also held the lead in this year's All-Star fan votes - (Don't come for me I did not forget Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon) this new decade talk.
Chicago will be the host city in the 69th edition of the event at the United Center home of the Chicago Bulls. This is the Windy City’s third time hosting the event since 1988, and the first time we get to witness three African’s as starters. I thought I was trippin’ for a second when the NBA made the announcement on Thursday but yeah folks it's happening. Here are the starters from both conferences.
Captain: Giannis Antetokounmpo
Captain: LeBron James
Joel Embiid is currently injured and had surgery on his hand on January 10th, he was cleared to participate in non-contact drills last Thursday so the chances of him actually playing on February 16th are pretty slim as the sixth seed 76ers hope to get a shot at a playoff spot. Fellow Cameroonian Pascal Siakam is making his first appearance as a starter and All-Star this year, these milestones have been bittersweet for the 25-year-old who lost his father in 2014. “Just thinking about the journey and knowing how hard it was to get to this level and the only thing I can think about is just my dad, every time something this big happens to me I can only think about him and wishing he was here.” said Siakam to Scott Van Pelt on ESPN.
Watching these guys play is electric and just seeing Africans doing their thing on the world's biggest stage makes many of us Africans proud, these guys are young and are only getting better which is the scary part. The continent has a lot of hidden talent and I believe we will be seeing more Africans making their mark in the big leagues over the next decade.
By Nthabiseng Mushi