Basketball Without Borders is a program the NBA has focused on heavily since 2001, constantly trying to extend opportunities provided through the league both on the court and off. Hoop fans may know about it but for those hearing about it for the first time may wonder – what exactly is it? Basketball without Borders (BWB) is the NBA and FIBA’s global basketball development and community outreach program that unites young basketball players to promote the sport and encourage positive social change in the areas of education, health, and wellness. The program has been quite successful to date and over the weekend they took another huge step as legends, players and coaches participated in the first ever NBA game in Africa at Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg.
Team World vs. Team Africa. The match-up was set but the faces that appeared took the incredible 4-day event to another level, giving everyone involved lifelong memories. How so? How about NBA legends (and two of the most beloved figures when it comes to players from Africa) Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo lacing them up one more time. What would a game featuring Olajuwon be without seeing atleast one “dream shake”…guess we’ll never know. The 50+ year old Hall of Famer pulled one out for the fans, the result? SPLASH!
“That’s one of the most memorable experiences ever” – Chris Paul.
“For me, as a kid, I wanted to play basketball and never had the access to meet NBA players, or watch NBA. Now to be part of a team coming back to play for Africa. I can’t describe it.” – Luol Deng.
The game had the flair of NBA All-Star weekend complete with jaw-dropping dunks, oops sent from seemingly another area code and long range threes that make you hit the slow nod saying “Yep, that’s why they’re in the league.” Eventually the competitive factor kicked in for the final quarter of play, leaving Team World with the slight edge over Team Africa 101-97.
As fans, players and coaches interacted afterwards it was evident – Basketball Without Borders is much bigger than a few numbers on the scoreboard. As Hakeem Olajuwon put it “We all won. The whole week was a winner.”
Luc Mbah a Moute
You can catch a replay tonight on NBA TV at 8/7C.