Except for the cameo appearances of Dikembe Mutombo and Hakeem Olajuwon in the Team Africa vs Team World NBA exhibition game, there was very little of interest in the league’s attempt to show it cares about the continent.
Sure, there are the league attempts to generate a market in Africa in its never stopping expansion plans, at least in terms of TV markets and merchandise.
There’s also the important charity and offseason work established and done by NBA players of past and present, with or without any recent African heritage.
But in terms of basketball? This was something of an All-Star game in an arena with about 4,500 in attendance. If the NBA is going to have a regular season game in South Africa (or another African nation, but the focus right now is on South Africa), it’s going to take a much bigger arena (maybe an outdoor game?) to make it happen, when there are so many other lucrative options, especially when it’s hard generating enthusiasm in a lot of African countries about basketball, and in enthusiasm, we mean the NBA finding a way to milk some money out of them.
With rising, aging and in their prime NBA stars on the floor, the best thing was Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo making a cameo appearance which was quite expected. Mutombo didn’t get his change to block and do the finger wag but Hakeem, winded very quickly which is to be expected from a 52-year old man, did pull off one moment of magic with a sort of dream shake before going down for a long breather.