Olajuwon, Mutombo Suit Up With NBA Stars At Inaugural Africa Game
The first ever officially sanctioned NBA game in Africa was held at Ellis Park Arena in downtown Johannesburg on Saturday, and it turned out to be quite the event. Current NBA stars were split into two teams - Team Africa and Team World - to duke it out for fun in front of the enthusiastic crowd in South Africa. Team World would end up with the 101-97 win after a tightly contested second half, but the game was about much more than the final score.
In the 31 years since Hakeem Olajuwon became the first African-born player to be drafted into the NBA, the sport has become increasingly popular on his home continent which has continued to produce top notch talent in the league. This game was not only meant to celebrate that but to also inspire the next generation. South African sports minister Fikile Mbalula spoke about that sentiment in an interview prior to the game press conferences
"This game offers young African kids the opportunity to see how far other African kids have been able to take their talent in the best league in the world and against the best in the business."
The tone for the exhibition game was set early by Cameroonian Luc Mbah a Moute who delivered a dunk straight from the tip-off. The arena roared the loudest though when NBA legends Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo hit the court wearing their old Rockets and Nuggets team uniforms and snagged a few minutes in the game during the second quarter.
In fact the highlight of the game was the 52-year-old Olajuwon's turn-around fall-away jumper; a signature "Dream Shake."
Here's another angle of the shot for good measure.
The current NBA stars lost their minds on the bench. Who could blame them?
"That's one of the most memorable experiences ever," said Team World captain Chris Paul. "I told Dream, if he's still moving like that at his age now, I couldn't imagine him in his day."
After an easygoing first half the game heated up in the second as Team World rallied with a 14-0 run in the fourth quarter. Team World was down as much as 20-points to Team Africa before earning the tight victory.
Washington Wizards guard Bradley Beal was the leading scorer for Team World with 18 points. Paul had 12. Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo had 22 points for Team Africa, followed up by team captain Luol Deng with 20. The captains Paul and Deng were named the winners of the Manute Bol Most Valuable Player Award for the game.
While the final score may be indicative of the players' competitive edge, it was the entertainment factor that was really on display for this momentous exhibition game; including cheerleaders and NBA team mascots interacting with the South African crowd. Team Africa coach Gregg Popovich even took a timeout in the second quarter so that fans could break-dance alongside the Spurs' Coyote and a few of the other mascots.
Check out Pop straight up cheesin'. Adorable.
Here are a few more noteworthy highlights from the inaugural NBA Africa Game.
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