The first ever official NBA game in Africa ended with Team World defeating Team Africa 101-97, but it was the return of legends Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo that added glitz to the exhibition game at Ellis Park in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Saturday.
Featuring players who were either born in Africa or had at least one parent come from the continent, Team Africa were yet lacking in balance and had to even draft in San Antonio Spurs forward Boris Diaw- he did it for his NBA head coach, Gregg Popovich, who was in charge of the home team.
With more forwards than necessary, including South Sudan and Miami Heat’s Luol Deng, who captained Team Africa and netted 20 points, they led 77-62 as the contest headed into the final quarter, with Milwaukee Bulks forward Gianni’s Antetokounmpo taking matters into his own hands to lead all scorers with 22 points.
— NBA Africa (@NBA_Africa) August 1, 2015
The motive behind the game was to entertain the crowd, in as much as a winner must emerge; yet, Team Africa provided the show stopper of the day when- out of the blues- came 52-year-old NBA hall of famer, Olajuwon, and 49-year-old Mutombo, who is set to be inducted into the hall of fame.
Olajuwon registered some blocks and then sank in a two with some of his trademark ‘Dream Shake’ and hardly had the Nigerian-born Nugget star missed any detail.
Congolese American, Mutombo, came up with four rebounds in his first two minutes in court.
Those legendary appearances was enough to help Team Africa take a 56-38 lead into the half-time break.
Victory was within grasp for Popovich’s men early into the second half but Chris Pail- captain of Team World- had some tricks up his sleeves, first producing three straight 3-point field goals to narrow the gap to within nine points.
The home favourites continued to fight for the game and carried a 77-62 lead into the final frame.
But a 14-0 run for Team World early into the fourth quarter knocked the wind out off Team Africa’s sail as the points arrears was further trimmed down to a point.
Despite a Festus Ezeli free throw, Washington Wizard’s Bradley Beal sank in a three point of his own to hand Team World the lead for the first time at 79-78.
— NBA (@NBA) August 1, 2015
Memphis Grizzles forward Jeff Green soon joined the party, at whose point the World’s were leading with 10 points.
Deng mustered all he could to get Team Africa back on track but to no avail.
Who could say the objective of the day was not attained? Talking about raising awareness of the game in Africa, history was made in South Africa on this day.
(Image and Video Credit: NBA via Twitter and Vine)