5 of the Best African Born Players in the NBAMay 14, 2022 10:00AM ● By Mac Johnson
Africa’s impact on the NBA is undeniable. Many of today’s stars are tied to Africa. Giannis Antetokounmpo, often considered the best player in the NBA, may be known as “The Greek Freak” being born in Greece, but his parents are Nigerian immigrants. Some of the greatest African-born basketball players like Hakeem Olajuwon have shaped the league as we know it. Here are 5 current NBA players born in Africa that are making plays on the court and finding creative ways to give back off of it.
JOHNATHAN KUMINGA: Democratic Republic of Congo
While being the youngest person on this list, the potential shown by Kuminga in his young NBA career has solidified him as a future difference-maker in the league. Kuminga was born in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Unlike others on this list, Kuminga started playing basketball at 2 years old. He relocated to the U.S. at 16 years old for more recruiting exposure and the opportunity to grow his game. Kuminga made headlines in 2020 when he opted out of playing in college and chose to play for G League Ignite, a developmental NBA league that allowed him to get paid for playing basketball instead of having a traditional “one and done” season in college.
PRECIOUS ACHIUWA: Nigeria
Born in the largest and one of the most populous cities in Nigeria, Port Harcout, Achiuwa is just 22 years old. He was drafted 20th overall in the 2020 draft to the Miami Heat. He was traded to the Toronto Raptors just a year later. He quickly made his mark in Toronto starting nearly 30 games. Achiuwa grew up mainly playing soccer, but was introduced to basketball when family members noticed his impressive length and athletic ability at an early age. He relocated to the United States in 8th, and his hard work eventually led to his becoming a McDonald's All-American and star player at the University of Memphis.
(Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)
SERGE IBAKA: Republic of Congo
Hailing from Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, Serge Ibaka has been a mainstay in the NBA since being selected in the first round of the 2008 draft. Ibaka’s path to the pros differs from others on this list because he never attended any prep schools or colleges in the U.S. before being drafted. He moved from Congo to Spain at 16 years old to begin his professional career. Playing against pros at such a young age helped develop his game early. Ibaka is known for being an enforcer on defense, becoming an NBA First Team All-Defensive player 3 times in his career. In addition to basketball, Ibaka is motivated to be philanthropic. He founded the Serge Ibaka Foundation which provides hearing aids for children in his hometown of Brazzaville. He also provides educational and healthcare supplies for orphanages across the Republic of Congo. Ibaka is now 32 and is currently in the NBA playoffs with the Milwaukee Bucks.
(Serge Ibaka in action as a member of the Toronto Raptors in 2018. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)
PASCAL SIAKAM: Cameroon
One of the bright young stars of the NBA, Pascal Siakam is the proven leader of the Toronto Raptors. Born in Doula, Cameroon, Siakam picked up basketball at the age of 16. Although he was incredibly raw, his talent was undeniable. Shortly after he started playing basketball, he relocated to Texas to play for a high school that would cater to his newfound skills. Coaches echoed Siakam’s ability to register information and immediately add it to his game. Siakam eventually earned a scholarship to play basketball at New Mexico State. After rising to stardom as a two-year starter, Siakam was drafted in the first round of the 2016 NBA draft. Siakam is constantly looking for ways to give back to his homeland of Cameroon. Siakam also created the PS43 Foundation through which he has donated tens of thousands of dollars and provides shoes for children around the world.
(Image Source: @ESPNNBA via twitter)
JOEL EMBIID: Cameroon
The best African-born player in the NBA right now is none other than Philly’s own Joel Embiid. The MVP candidate and future hall of famer hails from Yaounde, Cameroon. Embiid grew up playing soccer and his parents actually preferred he focus on his education and pursue volleyball as an extracurricular activity. Embiid quickly fell in love with basketball and dedicated all of his free time to improving his skill. Once as a teen, a family friend saw him in action on the basketball court. He quickly became an advocate for Embiid to relocate to the states. Joel did just that and started playing for a prep school in Florida. Embiid earned a scholarship to the University of Kansas. He dominated college for one year and declared for the NBA draft. The Sixers drafted him 3rd overall in 2014. He was a centerpiece of the Sixers rebuilding strategy called “the process”. Embiid quickly rose to stardom and has since become a 5 time all-star and an NBA scoring champion. Joel is also quite philanthropic. In 2020, he pledged to donate $500,000 to provide PPE and equipment for first responders toward the beginning of the pandemic. Just one year later, he donated $100,000 in all-star game winnings to combat homelessness in Philadelphia. The Sixers acknowledged his actions and matched him dollar for dollar. Embiid also frequently gives back to children in need in Cameroon and across Africa.
(Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)
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