No matter who triumphs in the National Basketball Association playoff game between the Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors tomorrow, there will be a clear winner: Africa.
On one side is the Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Greek-born son of Nigerian immigrants who is rapidly becoming the best basketball player on the planet. On the other are rising Raptors star Pascal Siakim of Cameroon and General Manager Masai Ujiri, a Nigerian seen by many as one of the game’s shrewdest executives.
The NBA’s connection with Africa is growing. The league now frequently plays a preseason game in Africa, and another of the league’s transcendent young talents is Cameroon’s Joel Embiid. Mr. Ujiri says there are “10 Embiids walking around” Africa waiting to be discovered.
That effort begins in earnest next year, when the NBA launches a pan-African professional league of 12 teams. The benefits for the NBA are obvious. But the symbol for Africa is potentially even more potent. The continent is still struggling to overcome lingering colonial views of its art, justice, people, and economy. The NBA venture can be the reverse, a mutual investment in the promise of Africa’s future.
“This new league could be the most important lens through which Africa’s history of vibrant talent, culture, history and beauty is celebrated,” write a Kenyan lawyer and his colleague in the Toronto Star. “It might just be the world stage Africans have long dreamed of, and patiently waited for.”
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