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 US Nurse ‘Cured of Ebola,’ NIH Says

Nina Pham, Texas nurse who treated first Ebola patient in US, received no experimental drugs; WHO expects vaccine surge in 2015 More

Video Islamic State Militants Encroach on Baghdad

Iraqi capital not under ‘imminent threat,’ US military says, amid worries about foothold More

Video Hong Kong Protesters Focus on Holding Volatile Mong Kok

Activists say holding Mong Kok is key to their movement's success, despite confrontations with angry residents and police More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid