African Players in the NBA

mutombo.jpgSince I’m a huge NBA fan and given that the playoffs are here, I figured I’d write this bit about African players in the league (some great, some not). I had this idea after I ran some searches on the web and couldn’t find any listing of African players so I decided to do my own digging (yes, I love basketball that much) to satisfy my curiosity.
While it was a rare occurrence in the past couple of decades (at least I only knew of Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo and sadly Manute Bol :-)), it’s become easier for African players to get into the league. I don’t mean to say that the standards for getting into the NBA have been lowered so much that it’s easier for anyone to get in but I believe that it’s us who have increased the level of our game to match the Americans’. As you’ve probably witnessed in recent international competition, the rest of the world is catching up…shiiiit you can go ahead cross out the previous sentence, the rest of the world has caught up!!!
Rarely though, do these players come straight from the continent, as most usually make an appearance on the collegiate scene or play for a few years overseas (Europe…uh…Europe :-D) before joining the NBA. Even when they do join the league, very few of those players have an impact on their teams (Michael Olowokandi anybody?), but no need to despair as hope is here in the form of talented players such as Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls or Didier Ilunga Mbenga of the Dallas Mavericks, ok just kidding on that last one lol but there’s reason for hope though.
Since the list was going to be too short with African born players only, I decided to also include any US or foreign born player of African descent (first generation damn it). In any case without further ado I bring you the list I came up with (in no particular order):

Luol Deng, Chicago Bulls – Sudan
Desagana Diop, Dallas Mavericks – Senegal
Ike Diogu, Indiana Pacers – Nigeria
Kelenna Azubuike, GS Warriors – Nigeria
Emeka Okafor, Charlotte Bobcats – Nigeria
Thabo Sefolosha, Chicago Bulls – South Africa
Dikembe Mutombo, Houston Rockets – DR Congo
Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Dallas Mavericks – Ghana
Michael Olowokandi, Boston Celtics – Nigeria
Mouhamed Sene, Seattle Supersonics – Senegal
Pape Sow, Toronto Raptors – Senegal
Ime Udoka, Portland Trailblazers – Nigeria
Didier Ilunga-Mbenga, Dallas Mavericks – DR Congo

Honorable mention: Stephane Lasme, UMASS – Gabon (just because I spent most of my life there also)

There it is, this is what I’ve come with so far. I’ll make updates when needed.

Trivia: What South Africa born player has been named MVP of the league in the past 20 years?

26 Responses to African Players in the NBA

  1. mengato says:

    find cameroonian players and contact me i got sonething for you

  2. Uche Egesionu says:

    Shouldn’t Andre Iguodala be on this list or is he not of African descent.

  3. lucas says:

    what’s lamar Odom’s story anyone? the name sounds african or what do you think?

  4. zamani ngidi says:


    Thanx for the list, I’m just wondering how would an african player be drafted into the nba? Any idea’s beside the obvouis “going to a usa college”

    Please get at me

  5. Faz says:

    Odom would typically be a Sudanese or south west African name. Being drafted directly from Africa is very difficult, the only way someone would take notice of you is if you played for you country in the Olympic team or Nationally. Plus National competition in Africa is wack with all sports. So they either send you to Europe where you play porfessionally or you go to College. Sometimes they start you in a low division to see how you match up, but for most of the people metioned in this article DIV 1 is the only place they can have any ‘real’ competition.

  6. Imani says:

    Odom is from Ghana typically a Fante last name, but there is no real story behind his family… he is born in the USA however but am sure his parents are from least dad

  7. Anonymous says:

    you should update your list to include

    Hasheem Thabeet, Memphis – Tanzania
    Christian Eyenga, Cleveland – DRC
    Chinemelu Elonu, Lakers – Nigeria/US

  8. Rafael says:

    ‘Prince’ Luc Mba a Boute (spell plaease), from Cameroon.. plays for the Bucks

  9. hello,
    i have started a site highlighting all africans that play professional sports in the united states. i really just got the bios done for the nfl guys but am now starting to work on compiling the information from nba players. follow us on twitter@africanballerz.

    hadiatu dumbuya

  10. Emusungu says:

    What about Serge Ibaka? He is supposed 2 b considered as the best in recent times, whadyathink? About ur Trivia if u mean Steve Nash as the African MVP then u r wrong, coz therez nothing African about him.

  11. Emusungu says:

    Whattabout Iguadal?

  12. Anonymous says:

    There is one more player coming from Kenya in few years to come. He is Chad Kwach Otieno.

    Watch this space.

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  17. Africa Carter says:

    Thanks for posting the list and thanks to all that replied I enjoyed reading them all again thanks

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  19. Anonymous says:

    You forgot Serge Ibaka on the thunder

  20. I am extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog.

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  21. Steve nash???? he is south african

  22. milimo sitimela says:

    I haven’t heard of a zambian player in the history of NBA for reasons not known. I don’t think those people who hunt for players don’t consider my country. I wish someone could take time and tour this country cause there is talent. I’m one of those who have the talent

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  24. Will says:

    Steve Nash is the answer to your trivia question

  25. Will says:

    If it isn’t Steve nash, maybe hakeem olajuwon?

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