• Cyrus Rogers

African stars set to shine in Chicago

There is a distinctly African flavor about the NBA All-Star Weekend happening in Chicago this weekend. From the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night to the All-Star Game itself on Sunday night US time, there are African stars littered throughout.

Let’s start with the Rising Stars Challenge. Team USA has Eric Paschall who has Liberian roots, then Team World features Nigerian-American Josh Okogie and Beninese-Japanese forward Rui Hashimura. Nigerian-Bahamian centre Deandre Ayton would have taken part but pulled out due to injury. On Saturday night the African players are also involved with Cameroonian Pascal Siakam and Nigerian-American Edrice ‘Bam’ Adebayo included in the Skills Challenge lineup.

On Sunday comes the big game the 69th NBA All-Star Game and the most prominent African athletes will be part of it. Nigerian-Greek megastar Giannis Antetokounmpo leads Team Giannis against Team LeBron. On Giannis’ side are fellow African brethren Joel Embiid and his Cameroonian compatriot Pascal Siakam, with Adebayo selected on the roster.

All of the players with African roots are there on merit and will be more than keen to showcase what they can do. The continent’s reach is broad and the players who have made it to the big-time with direct first or second generation African links will be motivated to show their worth. Team Giannis fell short last time in the showpiece event, and the odds are against them now, but they are focused, driven and prepared to do it for Africa.

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