For Golden State Warriors Center Festus Ezeli he's had the type of season every NBA player dreams of; the best record in the league, an MVP teammate, countless awards/accololades and an world championship.
While he didn't grow up dreaming of the gifts he would inherit playing in the league Ezeli will have the opportunity to share his storybook season and profession with African children dreaming of an NBA career when he participates in the first NBA game in Africa next month (Aug. 1st.)
A native of Nigeria who didn't start playing basketball until his early teens, Ezeli will play with Team Africa, which is comprised of players born in Africa and second-generation African players, against Team World, which features players from the rest of the world.
Ezeli, 25, has appeared in 124 games (48 starts) with the Warriors, holding career averages of 3.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 13.1 minutes over two seasons. The 6-11, 265-pound center scored 10 points in 11 minutes during the Warriors’ title-clinching Game 6 of the 2015 NBA Finals at Cleveland, helping Golden State earn its first championship in 40 years. Ezeli was selected by the Warriors in the first round (30th overall) of the 2012 NBA Draft after a four-year collegiate career at Vanderbilt. He was born in Benin City, Nigeria, and graduated from Igbinedion Secondary School at the age of 14 before moving to the United States in 2004.
Ezeli will play on Team Africa alongside team captain and two-time NBA All-Star Luol Deng (Miami Heat; Great Britain; born in South Sudan), Al-Farouq Aminu (Portland Trail Blazers; U.S.; parents from Nigeria), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks; Greece; parents from Nigeria), Nicolas Batum (Charlotte Hornets; France; parent from Cameroon), Bismack Biyombo (Toronto Raptors; Democratic Republic of the Congo), Boris Diaw (San Antonio Spurs; France; parent from Senegal), Gorgui Dieng (Minnesota Timberwolves; Senegal), Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City Thunder; Congo)* and Luc Mbah a Moute (Sacramento Kings; Cameroon).
Team World, comprised of players from the rest of the world, will feature team captain, NBPA President and eight-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul (Los Angeles Clippers; U.S.), Bradley Beal (Washington Wizards; U.S.), Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets; U.S.), Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies; Spain), Pau Gasol (Chicago Bulls; Spain), Jeff Green (Memphis Grizzlies; U.S.), Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics; U.S.), Evan Turner (Boston Celtics; U.S.) and Nikola Vucevic (Orlando Magic; Montenegro).
Five-time NBA Champion Gregg Popovich will coach Team Africa, with 2014-15 NBA Coach of the Year Mike Budenholzer of the Atlanta Hawks and Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach Monty Williams serving as assistant coaches. Brooklyn Nets General Manager Billy King and Toronto Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri are the Team Africa general managers, with Eric Waters (Washington Wizards) serving as the team’s athletic trainer.
Brooklyn Nets Coach Lionel Hollins will coach Team World, with Boston Celtics Coach Brad Stevens serving as assistant coach. San Antonio Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford is the Team World general manager, while Keon Weise (Orlando Magic) will be the team’s athletic trainer.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will attend the game along with NBA Global Ambassador Dikembe Mutombo (Democratic Republic of the Congo) and NBA Africa Ambassador Hakeem Olajuwon (Nigeria).
The game will take place following the 13th edition of Basketball without Borders (BWB) Africa, the NBA and FIBA’s global basketball development and community outreach program that has reached 1,000 campers from 31 African countries since 2003.
As part of BWB and NBA Africa Game efforts, NBA Cares, the league’s global social responsibility program, and the NBPA Foundation will host a series of events to leave a lasting legacy in the community. With support from Ford, local youth will participate in a Jr. NBA clinic on Wednesday, July 29 at the American International School of Johannesburg. Also at the school, Hoops 4 Hope will conduct life skills sessions presented by South African Airways. NBA players, coaches and legends will hold sessions on leadership and health and wellness for BWB campers throughout the week.
Members of the NBA family will gather at the newly built Boys & Girls Club at Protea Glen on Thursday, July 30 for a basketball court dedication and clinic presented by NIKE.
Friday, July 31 will mark the third consecutive year that NBA players will visit SOS Children’s Village Ennerdale, an organization that builds families for orphaned and abandoned children. NBA Cares and the NBPA Foundation have undertaken their largest commitment to the village to date, working on a range of projects from the refurbishment of the local library to the construction of a new basketball court.
The NBA has a long history in Africa with more than 35 players from the continent featured on NBA rosters since Hakeem Olajuwon was drafted in 1984. The NBA opened an office in Johannesburg in 2010.
The sold-out game will be held at Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg, South Africa in support of Boys & Girls Clubs of South Africa, SOS Children’s Villages Association of South Africa and the Nelson Mandela Foundation. It will air live in the U.S. on ESPN at 9:00 a.m. ET and in Africa on SuperSport at 3:00 p.m. CAT.
For more information, fans can visit nba.com/africa; Facebook.com/NBAAfrica and Twitter @NBA_Africa and use the hashtag #NBAAfricaGame.
For more information on the 2015 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors, visit warriors.com.