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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid