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

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Video One Year After Massacre, Iraq’s Yazidis a Broken People

Minority community still recovering from devastating assault by IS militants which spurred massive outrage More

‘Malvertisements’ Undermine Internet Trust

Hackers increasingly prey on users' trust of major websites to delivery malicious software More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs