The NBA finally have a footprint in Africa’s most populous country, with an office opening in Lagos, Nigeria, in February this year, and Gbemisola Abudu, NBA Africa VP and country lead, is on a mission to make it as wide as possible. With the NBA boasting a number of high-profile Nigeria-origin players over the years, including Greece international Giannis Antetokounmpo [his original Nigerian surname was Adetokunbo], Abudu and NBA Africa are eager to develop the wealth of talent from grassroots level up.
Gbemisola Abudu: One of the amazing things about the platform the NBA brings is that it’s a perfect intersection for all things culture: food, music, fashion and art. Nigeria has become a purveyor of culture in Africa. How do we bring all of that together for the NBA brand in Nigeria? We have over 200 million people. How do you get a larger percentage of that population to develop an affinity for basketball and specifically develop an affinity for the NBA? We have so many exciting plans. I’m really, really excited.
Gbemisola Abudu: One thing about Nigerians is that we have a major sense of national pride. A lot of these players want to come back home. They want to do something. They want to figure out how they can be plugged into the NBA’s plan in Nigeria. We have summer camps in Nigeria. We’re working with them to figure out how the NBA can facilitate them with that. That’s where I give them credit. I’m so proud, because it’s not a matter of us trying to reach out to them and convince them. They’re saying they want to help shed light on whatever the NBA is doing. They have established a credibility in the market. People love them, whether it’s Jordan [Nwora], Precious [Achiuwa], or Giannis.
Gary Washburn: Nigeria’s Chimezie Metu, tore into the country’s govt and Olympic committee for mistreatment of NGR athletes. “I’d like to use this time to bring awareness and comment on the off-the-court things a lot of Nigerian athletes have had to go through. in these Olympics.” #Tokyo2020
After the game, the 24-year-old Metu expressed frustration with the way he said the Nigerian Olympic Committee handled organizational matters for the Tokyo Games. The basketball teams sent to Saitama had difficulty obtaining proper credentials, and 10 track and field athletes from Nigeria — nearly half the country’s team — were disqualified from competing at the Olympics because the national federation hadn’t ensured they would meet minimum doping test requirements before coming to Tokyo.
“They were disqualified and they had nothing to do with it,” said Metu, who plays for the Sacramento Kings. “What there was was a lack of attention to detail and a lack of empathy for the hard work that has been put in by us athletes. … For 60-some athletes to come here and fly halfway across the world and be disrespected and humiliated by our country … it’s a lack of attention to detail by our government.”