Masai Ujiri and Pascal Siakam take Africa’s giants to new heights

wild birds president Maasai Ujiri He got a little emotional while recounting a moment from his childhood in which his mother asked about his worn-out shoes and wondered if sports would feed him.

“It’s feeding a lot of people now,” Ojiri said Monday at the United Nations Conference on Unstoppable Africa in New York.

Aogiri and Raptors star Pascal Siakam They were among the notable participants who affirmed their commitment to helping basketball and sport in general continue to grow on the African continent.

“Sport is here to stay and we are by definition unstoppable,” said Ojiri. “We shouldn’t view sport as just recreation. Sport is a business. It creates a wonderful opportunity for all of us.”

The African giants, which Ogeri co-founded in 2003, have for years helped top African prospects reach the NBA. She is now also focused on creating jobs, empowering women and youth, and building a path toward sustainable peace and prosperity.

Ojiri was instrumental in creating and launching the 12-team African Basketball League, which held its inaugural tournament last year in Kigali, Rwanda. The African giants also built stadiums and held summer camps in several countries to encourage participation.

Ojiri is proud of the rise of NBA stars of African heritage – including Siakam, Joel Embiid and Giannis Antetokounmpo – and says it’s just the beginning.

“I can tell you this: There are a thousand of each of them roaming across the continent,” he said on Monday.

Amadou Fall, president of the African Basketball Association, said the growth in participation and interest would lead to financial opportunities.

“Africa needs to stop being an exporter of talent,” he said. “We want to create an entertainment platform here on the continent.”

The African giants, co-founded by Masai Ujiri in 2003, has over several years helped high-profile basketball talents from Africa reach the NBA.

Few know more about the state of the game in Africa than 28-year-old Sekam, a two-time NBA pick who arrived after participating in Basketball Without Borders camps hosted by former NBA player Luke Mbah A Mott. . The Raptors power forward is now hosting youth summer camps through the PS43 Foundation.

“I started playing basketball when I was 17, which is pretty crazy,” Siakam said at Monday’s conference, adding that as “a emaciated kid from Cameroon” it was motivating to see Africans succeed in the NBA. He wants to push it forward.

“I hope to be a part of those people who inspire other young Africans to dream big,” said Siakam, who mentioned plans to contribute to building schools and community centers in Africa. “Education is the most important thing. My father believed in that, and I also believe in it”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the work the African giants have done goes beyond building infrastructure and discovering talent. He praised the program for teaching valuable life skills.

“I would consider myself one of those people,” said Silver, who has never played professionally but added that the sport has taught him discipline and hard work.

He added that about 10 percent of current NBA players were born in Africa, which gives youngsters hope of achieving what they aspire to.

Speaking at a seminar with Patrice Motsepe, president of the Confederation of African Football, Silver also reached out to other sports.

“We are not Coca-Cola and Pepsi,” he said. “Whether you shoot her or kick her, we can work hand in hand.”

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