Loving Basketball: International Players in the NBA and Opening Night Tidbits

The Season’s Opening Night was not disappointing. Both games played tonight were spectacular as expected with Milwaukee Bucks defending its championship against “short-handed” Brooklyn Nets (aka Kyrie Irving saga) and my fave Team, Golden States Warriors, routing the Los Angeles (LA) Lakers. The Dubs are surely back and in the championship race this Season. I hope tonight’s play reflects Season’s expectations which will only be improved upon and lead to playoff and eventual Finals. Knocking on woods! 🙏🏾

Credits: Bucks / NBA

BucksChampionship Rings

And, yes, the Bucks were presented with their championship rings (if you missed it, watch it here) prior to the start of game amid a full fan-packed arena. Well deserved. I’m happy for the Bucks players and management,

Will Bucks shoot for a back-to-back championship? We’ll see what the 2021-22 Season holds.

NBA’s International Players

Well, on Opening Night, the National Basketball Association (NBA) released that there are “109 international players from 39 countries on roster for its landmark 75th Anniversary Season, including a record number of players from Canada (eighteen), Germany (seven) and the Bahamas (three), and a record-tying number of players from Nigeria (five). The Toronto Raptors lead the league with a record-tying 10 international players from a record nine countries.”

The number of NBA international players went up by 2 compared to last season’s of 107 from 41 countries of which fourteen (14) were Africans.

On Opening Night, the Season’s roster comprised of 500 players. I identified 44 names of African descent. Twenty-seven (27) were Nigerians contrary to the Association’s stated number of only five (5). This might not be unconnected with the players being second or third generation Nigerians born offshore and/or having dual citizenships but choosing only to identify with the other country over Nigeria. Nigeria accepts dual nationality but some countries don’t.

Below is a list of the identified African NBA players, the country, the year they were drafted, and the Team:

  1. Gorgui Dieng, Senegal, 2013 - Atlanta Hawks
  2. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Congo & France, 2016 - Atlanta Hawks
  3. Onyeka Okongwu, Nigeria, 2020 - Atlanta Hawks
  4. Wes Iwundu, Nigeria, 2017 - Charlotte Hornets
  5. Ayo Dosunmu, Nigeria, 2021 Rookie – Chicago Bulls
  6. Daniel Oturu, Nigeria, 2020 – Chicago Bulls
  7. Tacko Fall, Senegal, 2019 – Cleveland Cavaliers
  8. Isaac Okoro, Nigeria, 2020 – Cleveland Cavaliers
  9. Frank Ntilikina, Rwanda-France, 2017 – Dallas Mavericks
  10. Eugene Omoruyi, Nigeria, Rookie – Dallas Mavericks
  11. Bol Bol, Sudan, 2019 – Denver Nuggets
  12. Zeke Nnaji, Nigeria, 2020 – Denver Nuggets
  13. Hamidou Diallo, Guinea, 2018 – Detroit Pistons
  14. Andre Iguodala, Nigeria, 2004 – Golden State Warriors
  15. Jonathan Kuminga, Congo, 2021 – Golden State Warriors
  16. Usman Garuba, Nigeria-Spain, 2021 – Houston Rockets
  17. David Nwaba, Nigeria, 2016 – Houston Rockets
  18. Nicolas Batum, Cameroon-France, 2008 – Los Angeles (LA) Clippers
  19. Serge Ibaka, Congo, 2008 – Los Angeles (LA) Clippers
  20. Sekou Doumbouya, Guinea-France, 2019 – Los Angeles (LA) Lakers
  21. Bam Adebato, Nigeria, 2017 – Miami Heat
  22. KZ Okpala, Nigeria, 2019 – Miami Heat
  23. Victor Oladipo, Nigeria, 2013 – Miami Heat
  24. Gabe Vincent, Nigeria, undrafted 2 years – Miami Heat
  25. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greece-Nigeria, 2013 – Milwaukee Bucks
  26. Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Greece-Nigeria, 2014 – Milwaukee Bucks
  27. Jordan Nwora, Nigeria, 2020 – Milwaukee Bucks
  28. Semi Ojeleye, Nigeria, 2017 – Milwaukee Bucks
  29. Josh Okogie, Nigeria, 2018 – Minnesota Timberwolves
  30. Mamadi Diakite, Guinea, 2020 undrafted – Oklahoma City Thunder
  31. Mohammed (Mo) Bamba, Ivory Coast, 2018 – Orlando Magic
  32. Chuma Okeke, Nigeria, 2019 – Orlando Magic
  33. Charles Bassey, Nigeria, 2021 – Philadelphia Sixers
  34. Joel Embiid, Cameroon, 2014 – Philadelphia Sixers
  35. Abdel Nader, Egypt, 2016 – Phoenix Suns
  36. Chimezie Metu, Nigeria, 2018 – Sacramento Kings
  37. Al-Farouq Aminu, Nigeria, 2010 – San Antonio Spurs
  38. Precious Achiuwa, Nigeria, 2020 – Toronto Raptors
  39. OG Anunoby, Nigeria, 2017 – Toronto Raptors
  40. Isaac Bonga, Congo, 2018 – Toronto Raptors
  41. Pascal Siakam, Cameroon, 2016 – Toronto Raptors
  42. Udoka Azubuike, Nigeria, 2020 – Utah Jazz
  43. Miye Oni, Nigeria, 2019 – Utah Jazz
  44. Joel Ayayi, Benin-France, undrafted 2020 – Washington Wizards

Race composition continues to be dynamic and has changed the trajectory of professional sports, including the NBA. Though Black-Americans first entered the league in 1950, almost fifteen years after its inception, the first African-born NBA player was Hakeem Olajuwon from Nigeria who was drafted in 1984.

NBA, like other professional sports and industry, have indeed come a long way as regards inclusion and diversity. We hope the trend continues to be upward till it indeed becomes a melting pot.

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