Indeed, although the league in its modern incarnation is still like the NBA of yesteryear, meaning the power dunks, alley hoops and pick-and-rolls are still pretty much on display, there is one particularly stark contrast that can be drawn between the NBA League in its present-day form and the league which previous generations of basketball fans were entranced by.
That contrast rests in arguably one element of the league alone today: the number of international players who ply their trade in the world’s indisputably most outstanding basketball league.
Namely a whole host of players from far-flung corners of the globe have succeeded in displaying their basketball skills on the most exalted and loftiest stage in world basketball– the NBA through the years.
These star players include the Gasol brothers, Pau and Marc from Spain, the Gallic guard Tony Parks, the celebrated Argentinean sixth man Manu Ginobili, and most recently, Luka Doncic, who plays a key role in the fortunes of the Dallas Mavericks, is just the latest Eastern European in a long line of many from that region of Europe to show off their skills to a vast discriminating American fan-base.
You, Dear Reader, may question what’s good about this trend, especially, critically, from an African perspective.
Well, the good thing about this trend is that as more international players have been accepted into the ferociously competitive NBA, this has also paved the way for a greater number of quality African stars to find their way to some of the league’s foremost teams in both the Eastern and Western conferences.
Apart from the likes of the twin colossuses Hakeem ‘The Dream' Olajuwon (Nigeria), and Dikembe Mutombo (DRC), who ruled the roost in the world’s top hoops league in the late 1980s and 1990s, it could be argued that there are more Africans today earning a living in the NBA than at any other time in the American basketball league’s rich and illustrious history.
Such stars include the talented South Sudanese small forward Luol Deng, who has sprung to prominence in the league, the dominating Cameroonian center Josh Embiid and of course who could justly leave out last season’s MVP Giannis Antetokounpos, who’s a Greek but of Nigerian descent.
However, why this writer is so chuffed at the revival of this season’s 2019-2020 NBA league is because in addition to our fellow African brethren who will be pulling in the crowds, there will be the added bonus for we, the numerous hordes of committed African devotees of basketball, of feasting our eyes on the pantheon of veritable iconic Africans in the diaspora, to wit, African-American leading lights of the sport who will be wowing not just American fans but a humungous global audience.
Indeed, this roll-call of bona fide African-American hoops greats include the ‘King’ Lebron James, the whiz-kid guard with razzle-dazzle ball-handling skills, Kyrie Irving, whose mesmeric ball-handling is truly a sight to behold, the deadliest shooting guard in the league of these times Stephen Curry, and as well, the young Zion Williamson, who is already being touted as the heir apparent of the coveted mantle of the league’s greatest player, who is by general consensus, the aforesaid Lebron James.
Thus, as can be seen, there is a lot to be decidedly cheery about.
As a befitting postscript to this sporting narrative, this writer is firmly of the view that encomiums are in order for Arsenal FC’s Gabonese skipper Pierre Emerick Aubameyang, whose brace of goals handed his team yet another FA Cup trophy yesterday against their vanquished opponents, Chelsea FC, who admirably finished in the ‘Top Four’ of the EPL this season.
Thankfully though, despite the Blues’ ‘top four’ credentials, the Gunners still emerged victorious courtesy of a certain predatory Gabonese marksman Aubameyang.
Let’s hope then that next season brings more rewarding tidings for Africa’s legions of football stars overseas who include Aubameyang, the deeply classy Egyptian Mohamed Salah, and the Ghanaian Andre Ayew among many others.
In that same breath, kudos aplenty should be deservingly dished out to the finalists of the Azam Sports Federations Cup (ASFC), Simba for winning the final 2-1 and the losing finalist Namungo FC for still qualifying to feature in the CAF Confederation Cup next season despite being defeated on the grounds that Simba SC as the country’s Mainland Premier League victors, are already slated to jockey for top honors in the CAF Champions League.
Three cheers then for the Msimbazi Street side. But the heartiest cheers must be reserved for Namungo FC, who in spite of losing, are still deservingly going to play in one of continental football’s most demanding competitions.