The day the NBA show came to town

In the greater scheme of things the result of the NBA Africa Game didn’t really matter.

That Team Africa opened the scoring, or that Chris Paul set Pau Gasol up to add the first points for Team World was insignificant. The fact that Team World ended up beating Team Africa, a firm favourite among the crowd at the Ellis Park Arena, by 101-97 didn’t make a massive dent as far as sporting headlines are concerned.

It provided all the fanfare you would expect. There were mascots slamming monster dunks off trampolines, free-throw competitions and dance-offs during timeouts. It was all about fun and the experience of watching some of the NBA’s finest and the talent they possess.

The biggest factor from the historic occasion, the first time such  game had been played on the continent, was the legacy that would be left behind the likes of Luol Deng, Bismack Biyombo, Bradley Beal and Paul.

The global appeal of basketball was evident in the stands, or bleachers if you will, with several fans sporting the jerseys of their adopted teams. There was the name of Steph Curry, part of the Golden State Warriors who were crowned this year’s champions, emblazoned on a couple and of course a few of LA Lakers vests, made famous by the likes of Kobe Bryant.

“I enjoyed myself. At the end of the day this is a fun game, a celebration and it’s more than just winning. We dreamed of being part of this,” Bismack Biyombo, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo but who earns his living with the Toronto Raptors, said after tonging out for Team Africa.

“We were excited about playing the game and honestly thank everyone at the NBA and NBA Africa for putting this amazing thing together.

Fans also got to see NBA legends Dikembe Mutombo and Hakeem Oluwajon roll back the years and take to the court for a few minutes. A massive cheer was reserved for Oluwajon as he showed off his skill to score a two-pointer.

‘We hope for a lot more to come. It is good exposure for Africa as well which is appreciated. It’s an amazing feeling to play in front of these fans . We’re hoping that we can have a lot more games in Africa and hopefully one day a regular season game.

“I hope that there are a lot of kids who benefit from this. I’m excited about the future of these kids and basketball here and I can’t wait to be part of bigger things,” Biyombo said.

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