IT’S NOT A TALL ORDER
NATIONAL Basketball Association stars are in town for their annual tour to South Africa.
Los Angeles Lakers forward Luol Deng is proud of the growth basketball has made in the continent.
The 32-year-old Deng was born in South Sudan, grew up without access to live NBA matches on TV or heroes from the continent who could inspire him to dream of playing for some of the biggest teams in the game.
But he pushed nonetheless, falling in love with the sport in Egypt after his family escaped a civil war. His game was refined in England before he went to the US to play for teams like the Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat and in his current home in Los Angeles. Deng is back in the continent to inspire the next generation of players in the Basketball Without Borders Africa programme that will culminate in an exhibition match tomorrow between Team Africa and Team World at the Ticketpro Dome in Joburg.
“The game is growing in the continent,” Deng said. “Africa is in a unique space right now where people are starting to realise how talented young guys from here are. BWB has shown the rest of the world what happens when you give these kids an opportunity. There are a number of them who have made the NBA after taking part in this programme (like Joel Embiid of Cameroon, who was a participant in 2011) and there is a growing number of players in the league from the continent.”
Deng and other NBA stars built 10 homes in Lenasia along with 200 volunteers from the NBA family. Today, they will visit the SOS Children’s Village in Ennerdale.
Kristaps Porzingis of Team World poses as part of the Basketball Without Borders Africa programme at the American International School of Johannesburg yesterday.