South Sudan native Luol Deng's dream of seeing the NBA play a game on the continent of his birth moved a step closer to a reality with Wednesday's announcement that the Miami Heat forward will headline one of the rosters for an August exhibition game in South Africa.
Deng, a two-time All-Star, will lead Team Africa against Team World, which will feature Los Angeles Clippers perennial All-Star point guard Chris Paul in the NBA's first exhibition game in Africa.
The Aug. 1 game at Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg is the culmination of efforts designed to showcase the NBA's growth in Africa through a connection that began more than 30 years ago when Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon was drafted first overall by Houston in 1984.
"Basketball is a growing sport, it's an international sport [and] it's touching so many different parts of the world now," Deng said in a video released by the NBA on Wednesday to promote the game. "A lot of people in Africa have always been passionate about it. And growing up, they never had the chance to watch [NBA] basketball. And now, they have the chance to do so and be more involved. It's just an amazing thing, and I'm glad the NBA is doing its part to get the people in Africa engaged."
The exhibition game is an extension of the NBA's annual Basketball Without Borders program, and will also support the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Africa, SOS Children's Villages Association and the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
A week of camps and coaching clinics for top youth prospects throughout the region will be conducted by 2015 NBA coach of year Mike Budenholzerof the Hawks, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, Nets coach Lionel Hollins, Celtics coach Brad Stevens and Pelicans coach Monty Williams.
The league has not yet announced the full rosters for the exhibition game, but Deng's team will consist of first- and second-generation players from Africa. Thunder forward Serge Ibaka and Timberwolves forward Gorgui Diengtold ESPN.com earlier this season they have committed to play. Paul's team will consist of NBA stars from the rest of the world.
"I look forward to representing Team World in the first NBA game in Africa," Paul said. "It will be my first visit to the continent, and I cannot wait to contribute to the growth of the game on and off the court."
At least 35 players with ties to Africa have played in the NBA over the past 30 years, including Olajuwon and 2015 Hall of Fame inductee Dikembe Mutombo. Since 2003, the NBA has established a league office in South Africa and has run facilities and camps in 15 countries or territories on the continent.
It is the second time in less than a month the NBA has announced plans to branch out and hold games or camps in new regions of the world. Two weeks ago, the league agreed to hold a four-day camp in Cuba for the men's and women's national teams. That camp is scheduled to open Thursday.
"The NBA has worked hard to grow the game of basketball in Africa, and I am excited to take the next step of playing our first game on the continent," NBA commissioner Adam Silver said. "Our players have been tremendous partners in this effort, and all of us look forward to sharing the authentic NBA experience and the values of our game with fans in Africa."
NBA exhibition in South Africa to feature Luol Deng, Chris Paul
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