Jolof in South Beach
Nothing brings the continent’s basketball fans more joy than when they see African players making an impact in the NBA. Now that we have a good number of first- and second-generation players in the league, its not surprising to find a team that could put an entire African five on the floor.
Up until last season, the Toronto Raptors were notably African with three forwards - Congolese Serge Ibaka, Cameroonian Pascal Siakam and Nigerian-British OG Anunoby. Not forgetting Congolese Patrice Mutombo on the coaching staff and Nigerian Masai Ujiri as the president of basketball operations.
As the African penetration continues, the latest team to get a slew of talent from the “Motherland” is the Miami Heat, which has six players with Nigerian heritage.
Leading the Nigerian charge in Miami is Idris “Bam” Adebayo, who has developed into a formidable two-way player after playing second fiddle to Hassan Whiteside for a number of years, before he was traded to the Portland Trail Blazers in 2019.
Adebayo was pivotal in the Heat’s impressive performance last season, that saw them reach the NBA Finals.
Three-time NBA champion and 2015 finals MVP Andre Iguodala is a great veteran forward for the Heat. He has great presence with notable regular and postseason experience.
Alongside Udonis Haslem and Jimmy Butler, he is what a squad like Miami, which has a relatively young starting five, needs to help them potentially have another impressive playoffs berth this season. He is averaging 4.7 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game.
Former Memphis Tiger Precious Achiuwa was born in Port Harcourt, Nigeria and grew up playing soccer, but would later change his focus to basketball in college and is now giving Miami and average of 5.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 0.5 assists per game.
Forward KZ Okpala, in his first year in the league, is already starting to have great impact off the bench with some good minutes and managing a 2.4-point, two-rebound, and 0.4 assist average per game for the Heat.
Six-foot three guard Gabe Vincent , who also plays for the Nigerian National Team is also great off the bench and is averaging 5.1 points, 1.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game for Miami.
The latest addition to the Miami squad is NBA Africa Game 2017 MVP and two-time All-Star Victor Oladipo, who was traded from the Indiana Pacers earlier this year, and only played 20 games for the Houston Rockets before being part of another deal at the trade deadline that saw him joining the Heat.
Oladipo is averaging 19.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game.
In the recent past, the most notable African player to make the Heat roster was Sudanese forward Luol Deng who was at the franchise from 2014 to 2016.