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Visualizing NBA Players of African Descent

In the 2018-2019 NBA Season the Toronta Raptors led by GM Masai Ujiri assembled arguably the most talented players of African descent.

Veteran center Serge Ibaka provided wizened steadiness, ever improving Pascal Siakam provided the silky smoothness and although limited by injury O G Anunoby contributed meaning minutes as the Toronto Raptors who had acquired MVP Kahwi Leonard in a shock trade to San Antonio Spurs for Demar Derozan.

Masai’s gamble paid of the Toronto Raptors landed the much coveted Larry O’brien Trophy.

Several African countries have provided stellar MVP talent to the NBA Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon nicknamed ‘the Dream’ led the Houston Rockets to Two NBA titles in the 90’s and is still regarded as one of the best big men to ever play the game. Hailing out of Nigeria the 7’2 Olajuwon with his shake and bake moves and calm demeanour meandered the Rockets to success.

It would take several more decades before any African would once again hoist the trophy. Olajuwon threw down the challenge and Africa responded. Two time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo (Adetokunboh with the proper Nigerian spelling) currently has the largest NBA contract in history worth $228M over 5 years and is spearheading the Milwaukee Bucks to championship contention. However he is not alone.


The NBA has not been shy of rewarding talent. Ujiri refused to trade Pascal Siakam to secure Kawhi’s future with the Raptors and equally rewarded the budding talent with a luctrative talent. Pascal Siakam, Joel Embid of the Philadelphia 76’sers and Giannis earn significantly more than their African compatriots.

Blessed with God given genes and talents the Center and Forward positions are favourable roles suited to the fast twitch muscles and dizzying heights. Giannis and Serge are both regarded as some of the best while Siakam is continously improving his game as a versative forward.

Nigeria provides almost half of Africa’s participation in the NBA followed by Senegal and surprisingly the Democratic Republic of Congo comes in third with often touted potential MVP Joel ‘The Process’ Embid. Southern Africa is completely ommitted whilst West Africa  leads with Nigeria, Ghana and Mali.

Suffice it to say African players remain competitive over long periods of their careers. The Dream Olajuwon has set the pinnacle at 18 years with two championships with the rockets. Success. Drafted in 1984 success came to Olajuwon in his 10th year in the NBA in 1994, Ibaka on the other hand won his ring in his 11th year. Siakam won his ring much earlier, drafted in 2016 he played an instrumental part in the Raptors campaign to win in 2019. Gianninis heading into his 9th year is widely expected to win a champoinship in the next 2 to 3 years meanwhile his younger brother Kostas has already won his first ring with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2020 Championship.

The NBA has over time continued to be an examplary display of African talent. Basketball talents is not in short supply and with the eventual launch of the NBA Africa league there will be increased participation opportunities to generate revenue.




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