The National Basketball Association is a multi-cultured competition where we can see athletes from different nationalities compete for the same goal. This makes the sport even more exciting to watch, as fans from all around the world are cheering for athletes that come from their country.
In today’s article, we will dive deeper into the Nigerian influence in the NBA, which is rather big and continues to grow over the years. Over the years, we’ve seen many Nigerians that got a chance to compete in the big basketball league, and more than half of them were foreign-born.
Let’s dig deeper and find the best Nigerians that put their mark on the NBA throughout the years.
Hakeem is one of the best Nigerians that ever set foot in the NBA. With the nickname “The Dream” Olajuwon left his hometown of Lagos to join the Guy Lewis’ University of Houston Cougars in the NCAA.
After some incredible appearances and leading the team to the NCAA Final Four, he was drafted first overall by the Houston Rockets back in 1984. This is a rather important year just because this was the year where Michael Jordan was picked 3rd overall.
He had an amazing career averaging 20.6 points per game, 2.86 blocks, and 11.0 rebounds. Unfortunately, he finished runner-up in the Rookie of the Year that went to Michael Jordan.
Olajuwon was in the squad that led the Rockets to back-to-back NBA titles in 1994 and 1995, and he also won two Finals MVP, one MVP Trophy, and two Defensive Player of the Year awards.
This one is a surprise just because of the turn of events that happened over the Olympic games. Spencer Dinwiddie was born in the US, but after he was not included among the 44 finalists for the US Men’s Basketball Olympics team, he decided to file for a Nigerian passport so he could play for the Olympics.
Since he is a Nigerian citizen, he will also be included in the list.
He played three seasons for Colorado in the NCAA after being drafted 38th overall by the Detroit Pistons back in 2014. He changed paths multiple times throughout his career, playing for the Bull, Brooklyn Nets, and he had a great 2019/20 season scoring 20.6 points per game.
Here we have another success story where a Nigerian started his career at the University of Kentucky. He showed his talent after winning two SEC Tournament titles and climbing to 8th place on the leading scorer as a junior back in 2005.
He also joined the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight and had some impressive games.
After that, he joined the Golden State Warriors and he also managed to play for the Dallas Mavericks. After few years, he decided to enter the Sportcasting U. program at Syracuse University and has been a sports caster by profession since 2016.
Michael Olowokandi was the second Nigerian ever to be drafted first overall in the NBA draft just after the legend Hakeem Olajuwon. Even though he first held a basketball when he was 17 years old, he advanced quickly and ended up joining few University teams and led the Tigers to the 1998 National Invitation Tournament.
Back in 1997-98, he became the Big West Player of the Conference and later that year he was drafted by the Los Angeles Clippers. Unfortunately, he didn’t find himself in the big league changing few teams from Minnesota Timberwolves to Boston Celtics. He also battled many injuries that took away from the sport forcing him to retire back in 2007.
Here we have another top college recruit that was representing the Norcross High School in Georgia. He played college basketball at Wake Forest and spent two years with the Demon Deacons. After the big teams noticed his talent, he was drafted 8th on the overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft by the Los Angeles Clippers.
Later that season, he was traded to the Orleans Pelicans where he didn’t find his true self. Later he changed multiple teams from Portland Trail Blazers to Orlando Magic for his last season.