JOHANNESBURG — The NBA put on a show in its first exhibition game in Africa on Saturday — starting with a dunk straight from the tip-off by Luc Mbah a Moute.
That had the crowd roaring early at Ellis Park Arena in downtown Johannesburg. It got even louder when African NBA legends Hakeem Olajuwon and Dikembe Mutombo stripped off their business suits to don their old team uniforms again and play for a little while in the second quarter.
The 52-year-old Olajuwon, in a Houston No. 34 jersey, pulled off a turn-around jumper — the “Dream Shake” — that had the current NBA stars leaping off the benches with their arms in the air.
“That’s one of the most memorable experiences ever,” said Chris Paul, one of the team captains. “I told Dream, if he’s still moving like that at his age now, I couldn’t imagine him in his day.”
After a relaxed first half, the game got serious in the second: Paul’s Team World rallied with a 14-0 run in the fourth quarter to beat Luol Deng’s “home” Team Africa 101-97.
The South African exhibition was the NBA’s biggest step into Africa so far, and could be the pre-cursor to a preseason and maybe even a regular-season game on the continent, according to league commissioner Adam Silver.
“For me, as a kid, (I wanted) to play basketball and never had the access to meet NBA players, or watch NBA,” said Deng, who was born in South Sudan. “Now to be part of a team coming back to play for Africa. I can’t describe it.”
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@SLAMOnline