In­spir­ing Africa’s fu­ture NBA stars

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - NJAB­ULO NGIDI

THE phi­lan­thropist at heart that is Bis­mack Biy­ombo is at home in Joburg as part of a group of NBA play­ers, coaches and ex­ec­u­tives giv­ing back and in­spir­ing the next gen­er­a­tion of bas­ket­ball play­ers.

The Orlando Magic cen­tre from the Demo­cratic Re­pub­lic of Congo (Congo) has spent the bet­ter part of this week shar­ing his skills in the Bas­ket­ball With­out Bor­ders Africa pro­gramme as well as tak­ing part in a num­ber of ini­tia­tives to give back to com­mu­ni­ties in Le­na­sia and En­nerdale.

That’s noth­ing new for Biy­ombo as he has spent part of the for­tune he has amassed from the sport, in­clud­ing the $72 mil­lion dol­lar con­tract he signed last year, to grow the game on the con­ti­nent.

A bright smile from the gi­gan­tic player en­velopes his face as he talks about how he fell in love with bas­ket­ball grow­ing up in Lubum­bashi which he left as a 16-year-old for Ye­men be­fore play­ing in Spain.

“It was one of my un­cles who planted the first seed,” Biy­ombo said. “But as you grow and watch the NBA, you get in­spired and con­tinue to grow as a player. I’ve been in­spired by a lot of play­ers in the game of bas­ket­ball, from far away. Now that I am one of those play­ers, I would like to in­spire as many as I can.

It’s a never-end­ing chain that en­sures that more peo­ple get to the sport, es­pe­cially from Africa, so that we can have more and more play­ers in the league.”

The growth of the game on the con­ti­nent will be on show to­mor­row at Tick­et­pro Dome. Biy­ombo will be part of Team Africa, made up of play­ers born on the con­ti­nent or with links to it, who will take on Team World in an ex­hi­bi­tion match.

Biy­ombo is part of a grow­ing list of Africans who are hold­ing their own in the NBA. That’s why this trip is im­por­tant to him on two lev­els, to show the huge strides the con­ti­nent is making and en­sure that the num­ber of Africans in the NBA in­creases by in­spir­ing the next gen­er­a­tion.

“You’ve got to have hope, that’s what kept me grow­ing in a sport that wasn’t that huge in the con­ti­nent when I started out,” Biy­ombo said.

“The bas­ket­ball land­scape has changed a lot from when I was a kid to now that I am an ath­lete. We’ve built a lot of courts and we con­tinue to build a lot more, evolve and in­volve the next gen­er­a­tion of play­ers.

“We’ve done a tremen­dous job, not just in Congo but all over the con­ti­nent. The game has grown so much that it doesn’t take chance or luck any­more to find the next gen­er­a­tion of play­ers from Africa.”

BIS­MACK BIY­OMBO

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.