News / Africa

Mandela Instrumental in Popularizing Basketball in Africa

Mike Richman
Nelson Mandela, a successful amateur boxer, was a passionate sports fan.
 
After his release from prison in 1990, the South African anti-apartheid icon envisioned using sports to help inspire his racially torn nation. One of those sports was basketball, which at the time had only limited popularity in South Africa.
 
Mandela took steps to form a partnership between South Africa and the U.S. National Basketball Association (NBA). That bond introduced many people in his country to the game and sparked a rapid growth of basketball throughout Africa.
 
NBA Commissioner David Stern paid tribute to Mandela after his death earlier this month, calling the former South African president "one of the most powerful and inspirational leaders in the world and a great friend of the NBA."

According to Sekou Smith, a senior analyst for NBA.com and NBA TV, Mandela truly believed that sports had the power to unite people.
 
"In Africa, someone had to pave the way for that relationship to begin," Smith said. "That’s where Nelson Mandela came in, in terms of opening doors diplomatically for the NBA and its players and its union to come into South Africa and establish relationships. I think Nelson Mandela was considered kind of an ambassador for the league in many respects because of the cache he had and the political clout he had to be able to bring people to the table, businesses and others, to help facilitate the NBA having a presence in Africa and certainly in South Africa. It's continued on to this day, obviously."
 
The Dream Team
 
That relationship began in 1993, when the NBA toured Africa hoping to capitalize on basketball's popularity after the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.
 
In Barcelona, the U.S. men's squad won the Gold Medal behind the play of the "Dream Team," which included NBA legends Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.
 
During the tour, an NBA delegation stopped in South Africa, where several NBA players hosted basketball clinics for children. At a banquet, Mandela, one year away from being elected South Africa's president, welcomed the NBA's presence in his country.
 
“I understand that the National Basketball Association and the players union will be bringing a team to tour South Africa at this time next year," Mandela said.  "We have great optimism that by your next visit, we will be welcoming you to a democratic, united South Africa. That will be one of the most exciting moments in the history of our country, and we hope to enjoy it together with you.”
 
Stern then gave Mandela a basketball signed by the "Dream Team."
 
“You are a dreamer who [has] ignited a nation in dreaming a dream which is very close to being fulfilled," Stern said. "It’s my pleasure… to present to you a basketball that has been signed by each member of the USA world champion 'Dream Team' in the Barcelona Olympics. It is a treasure, but nothing near the treasure that you bring to this nation and the world. Thank you very much.”
 
Stern says he will long be thankful that he worked hand-in-hand with Mandela, whose foresight helped lead to a tremendous rise in the number of African players now in the NBA.

You May Like

Photogallery Early Nigeria Results Show Buhari Leading; Tampering Concerns Mount

One local group monitoring polls is concerned politicians might use security agencies to 'fiddle with the election collation process' at state level More

UN: 7,300 Civilians Killed in Boko Haram Insurgency

A senior UN humanitarian official tells the United Nations Security Council 1,000 people have been killed this year More

Turkish President Warns Iran About Trying to Dominate Middle East

Warning comes amid growing concerns inside Turkey that it will be sucked into a sectarian conflict with its neighbor More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More