South Africa Rumors
These days, Lanier lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., and travels for the NBA as needed. He also works out of the league’s New York office during various weeks of the year and is a staple at the league’s big events such as the All-Star Game and the NBA Finals. “I like to say that Bob came with the job when I started here in 2000,” said Kathy Behrens, president of social responsibility and player programs for the NBA. “We have traveled to South Africa a few times and we have had some incredibly moving events and experiences.”
The 52-year-old Olajuwon, in a Houston No. 34 jersey, pulled off a turn-around jumper — the “Dream Shake” — that had the current NBA stars leaping off the benches with their arms in the air. “That’s one of the most memorable experiences ever,” said the Clippers’ Chris Paul, one of the team captains. “I told Dream, if he’s still moving like that at his age now, I couldn’t imagine him in his day.”
Los Angeles Clippers All-Star Chris Paul was on the fence when first approached about making the trip but his wife, Jada, encouraged him to go. Paul has made it a point to spend as much time with Deng as possible in South Africa. “It’s a life-changing experience,” Paul told USA TODAY Sports. “Luol’s been telling me a lot of the history. It’s one thing to be in the States and have people tell you how big of an impact it is but you don’t understand it until you travel here and see it.
The league increased its effort this season bringing several high-profile NBA players and coaches to Johannesburg, South Africa for three days of basketball and life instruction for nearly 60 of Africa best players born in 1998. “What will come of this is the development of more clinics, more camps and more youth competition,” said Toronto Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, who was born in Nigeria. “It continues to grow, and this will expose more young players and give them more opportunities and we have to create that opportunity.
Still, it might be the jersey Batum puts on for a 9 a.m. (EST) exhibition slate on August 1, 2015 at Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg, South Africa that will cause him to take pause. That’s because Batum will be taking the court for Team Africa against Chris Paul’s Team World squad in the first NBA game to ever take place in Africa. The matchup will air live on ESPN. “This is huge for us and huge for me,” Batum stated about the importance of an NBA game being played in Africa. “I grew up in France, played for the French team and am French, but my dad is from Cameroon. I’ve got roots in Cameroon and family in Cameroon, so for the first time in my life I’ll be able to experience the pride of playing in a jersey with Cameroon on it. My family and I are proud about that. It’s a special thing for me.”
Ezeli is scheduled to depart from South Africa back to the United States on Aug. 6. He says his trip to Africa won’t be complete until he finally steps foot back in Nigeria. “Even if I can’t go right now, the fact that I can go back to Africa is exciting to me,” Ezeli said. “There are a lot of things I want to do in the world. With the trouble in Nigeria and things like that, I want to be able to help my country in some way. I don’t know how it’s going to be, but I want to help my country. But to be able to give back to the continent, this is an exciting first step.”