Victor Oladipo.jpeg

Illustration by Seun Ajibola

At the moment, the only recognizable NBA guard with African roots is Victor Oladipo.  Luc Mbah a Moute and Luol Deng are considered small forwards and players like Serge Ibaka and Jahlil Okafor are considered big men. If you pay attention to the league, you start to notice a trend of the type of players that come out of the continent, which are basically just big men. I remember as a young high schooler with NBA dreams and I looked around the NBA and realized that the only representation of African players were players over seven feet tall (i.e. Dikembe Mutombo and Hakeem Olajuwon) - I never had a chance of getting to that height. Both Hakeem and Dikembe are great players in their own right but none I could identify with as a basketball player. Prior to the NBA draft in 2013, Victor Oladipo's name started gaining some notoriety during March Madness and he was being considered a top overall draft pick. I became fascinated with the idea of having a top tier NBA guard from Nigeria and what that means for the game across the continent. 

Victor Oladipo was born on May 4, 1992 in Upper Malboro, Maryland, United States. He attended Indiana University and was drafted second overall in the first round of the 2013 NBA draft. Coming out of an academic home with his mother as a nurse and father as a public health official, he was restricted in his pursuit of basketball. Like many young Nigerians, education comes first and there is a restriction on pursuing creative interests and turning it into a professional career. During the draft period of 2013, he was selected second overall pick. At 6ft 4inches, Oladipo represents an important sports figure for the African continent.

Football is still the most popular sport among the citizens of the continent. Basketball is popular among some nations, notably Angola, but it is still embraced in the manner that reflects its place as one of the more accessible sport globally for all levels of class.  While, Oladipo may not go down as the greatest shooting guard the league has ever seen, he does usher in possibilities for young African basketball fans who one day would like to make the NBA. I wonder if he has thought about what he means to the game from this standpoint because I wish there was a player like him when I was growing up that I could better identify with in the league.

Oladipo is a representative for several brands and these brands should note his significance to the game across the continent and promote him as such going forward.  NBA Basketball Without Borders should have him as an Ambassador and highlight the achievement of being a guard with African roots. He is not marketed this way to the broader African continent that may not necessarily follow basketball, but it should be done in order to establish basketball as a viable alternative to football.

Ideas, NBA, SportsFemi Adeyinka