Author: Nonyelum Ozoemena
Basketball is an emerging sport that is closest to rivaling football’s popularity in Nigeria. The D’Tigers and D’Tigress have gone ahead to make so much accomplishments despite little or no apparent interest and support from Nigerians.
Basketball in Nigeria started as far back as the late 1950s when Walid Zabadne taught young Nigerians the sport in a Syrian court in Lagos. In 1964, the Nigerian team, under Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF), joined the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the D’Tigers have since represented the country in Olympics, FIBA World Cup and Afrobasket where they have won gold, silver and bronze medals.
In 2015, D’Tigers emerged winners of Afrobasket after beating Tunisia 19–30. The African champions are ranked 23rd as at March 2020 and first in Africa.
It is also worthy to note that Basketball legend, Hakeem Olajuwon put Nigeria on the world map as he was the number one pick ahead of Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley in 1984. Although he never played for Nigeria on the international level, pledging his allegiance to the United States when he became a citizen, he paved the way for other Nigerians to be included in the NBA.
History was made more than three decades later as eight basketball players of Nigerian descent were selected for the 2020 NBA Draft, with two top ten picks and six picks in the first round. Jordan Nwora, Udoka Azubuike, Issac Okoro, Desmond Bane, Onyeka Okongwu, Precious Achiuwa, Zeke Nnaji, and Daniel Oturu were selected in the first round of the draft.
This is cheering news, especially for the D’Tigers in terms of additional talents in the team.
Despite all these accomplishments, Basketball remains an underrated sport in Nigeria. What then is the way forward?
NBBF President Engr. Kida gave the perfect response on his visit to Senator Orji Uzor Kalu:
“We have so many plans and lofty programs at the grassroots levels where talents can be discovered and the next generation of stars can be discovered. Sports is a multi-billion naira sector in Nigeria which can be well harnessed to create jobs for millions.
“To make billions in sports, there is a need for serious investment by all and sundry.”
In conclusion, Basketball is a growing culture in Nigeria. With better funding from government, corporations and individuals, we don’t see any reason why Nigeria will not be a powerhouse of Basketball and even better than football.