History was made after Nigerians dominated the 2020 NBA Draft on Wednesday, with a record eight players of Nigerian descent being selected by NBA teams. Amadou Gallo Fall, president of the Basketball Africa League, told CBS News on Thursday that the accomplishment means even more amid political unrest in the country and the devastating coronavirus pandemic.
“In this incredible, challenging time with the pandemic and recent event that happened in Nigeria, this is a great story,” Fall said. “Young people really being at center stage, providing inspiration to this next generation… just to show that it’s possible.”
The Cleveland Cavaliers selected 19-year-old Isaac Okoro with the 5th draft pick on Wednesday. During a post-draft news conference, a reporter asked the Auburn University star what it meant to be first Nigerian drafted that year.
“It feels great to be the first Nigerian in this draft to be drafted,” Okoro replied. “It’s also just a blessing […] my mom always tells me to keep that Nigerian pride. Even though I wasn’t born in Nigeria, I still got Nigerian blood. So, it’s just having that on my shoulders.
NBA teams also selected Onyeka Okongwu (No. 6), Precious Achiuwa (No. 20), Zeke Nnaji (No. 22), Udoka Azubuike (No. 27), Desmond Bane (No. 30), Daniel Oturu (No. 33) and Jordan Nwora (No. 45). All of them have parents or a parent who is Nigerian, with the exception of Achiuwa and Azubuike, who were born in Nigeria.
Achiuwa and Azubuike were both taken in the first round, marking the first time two players from Nigeria were taken in the first round of the same draft.
All-star Victor Oladipo, a point guard and shooting guard for the Indiana Pacers whose parents are from Nigeria, commented on the draft night feat during an NBA virtual conference.
“Nigerian American athletes in general, not only in the game of basketball but in sports all over the country, all over the U.S., are continuing to prosper,” he said. “We had quite a few in the draft yesterday, there’s quite a few doing their thing for the continent of Africa and obviously Nigeria as well.”