Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson dominate the headlines. Source: Source: NBA Media Ventures - Photo: 2023

Africans Making Headway in The Ranks of Popular Sports

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK, 26 June 2023 (IDN) — He’ll be playing basketball in Texas, he’s got a wicked grin, and he’s got a name almost as long as he is tall.

If you guessed Victor Wembanyama, give yourself a star. He’s the most hotly anticipated basketball prospect in a generation as the U.S. searches for the next Hakeem Olajuwon or at least an up-and-coming NBA-level talent.

This week, the San Antonio Spurs selected Wembanyama No. 1 overall in the N.B.A. draft at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

“One of the best feelings of my life,” the Parisian-born teenager known as ‘Wemby’ said. “Probably the best night of my life. I’ve been dreaming about this for so long. It’s a dream come true. It’s incredible.”

Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich was thrilled but tamped down excessive expectations. “He’s not LeBron, or Tim, or Kobe, or anyone else,” Popovich told reporters. “He’s Victor.”

Even as the civil rights movement began integrating African-American athletes into American sports, there was a delay in the integration of African-born athletes into American sporting events, notes Jonah Samples writing for the DePaul Journal of Sports Law in his piece “Making It Rain Down in Africa – The Increase in African-Born Athletes in American Basketball Leagues and the Uncertain Future of the Industry.”

The first NFL player born in Africa, Howard Simon Mwikuta, did not play until 1970. The Zambian’s career was short lived and he only appeared in one game with the Dallas Cowboys before being released from his professional team.

Major League Baseball did not see its first African-born player until Gift Ngoepe of South Africa in 2017. Major professional sports organizations like the National Football League and Major League Baseball are still growing their numbers of African-born prospects.

At the start of the 2022-2023 season, NBA rosters included 16 players born in Africa, including Bismack Biyongo of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Josel Embiid, Pascal Siakam and Christian Koloko from Cameroon, Serge Ibaka of the Republic of Congo, Gorgui Dieng of Senegal, Wenyen Gabriel and Bol Bol of Sudan. Also, Mamadi Diakite of Guinea, Josh Okogie Udoka and Azubuike Okechukwu of Nigeria, and Bruno Fernando of Angola.

Compare that to Canada in the same season which produced the most foreign NBA players with 61. France produced 42 players, and Serbia produced 30. Oceania and Australia produced 33 players while New Zealand produced 3 players.

Figures show there are over 500 African soccer players in European leagues. The number of players playing abroad is far higher if other non-European leagues, like the Middle East and China, are factored in.

Now, African-born athletes competing in the U.S. are beginning to thrive. Nine of the top 100 collegiate prospects for the NBA from 2011-2013 were from Africa and their success has turned the historically ethnocentric focus of American scouts and coaches away from the tradition of recruiting only American athletes, and towards recruiting basketball players from Africa.

Still, the sport has not been able to erase the vestiges of white supremacy and racism. In January, an effigy of Black soccer star Vinicius Jr., a 22-year-old Brazilian who plays for Real Madrid was hung from a highway bridge in Madrid prior to the match.

In Italy, monkey chants swirled around the stadium in April as a Black player celebrated a goal. In England, where a banana peel thrown from a hostile crowd during a game in north London landed at the feet of a Black player after he scored a penalty.

Racism is a decades-old issue in soccer, predominantly in Europe but seen all around the world.

Vinícius is emerging as the leading Black voice in the fight against racism, which continues to stain the world’s most popular sport.

“I have a purpose in life,” he said on social media, “and if I have to keep suffering so that future generations won’t have to go through these types of situations, I’m ready and prepared.” [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson dominate the headlines. Source: Source: NBA Media Ventures

Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

We believe in the free flow of information. Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International, except for republished articles with permission.

Related Posts

Begin typing your search term above and press enter to search. Press ESC to cancel.

Back To Top