The closest I have gotten to watching an NBA league in my life is by following 3am banter on Twitter from basketball fans watching play-offs and finals plus a round-up of the side-shows on fashion & entertainment websites on what Rihanna, Beyonce, Drake or Jay-Z wore to watch the Finals!
The dust is just settling down from a busy weekend at the Ford Jr. NBA League Finals here in Nairobi where I sat through not one or two minutes but the full hour plus of a game and everything in between. How I have never followed basketball before just amazes me. I can comfortably name the legendary players and the fashion icons like Russell Westbrook and Dwayne Wade but nothing about rings, stats and ball possession, is that even a thing in basketball? This past weekend however, to have been fully engaged and even carried away in the game is a sign I have been missing out!
Preceding the finals I was privileged to attend a reception held by the US Embassy in Kenya in support of the Jr. NBA League.
Pause. I met Jidenna at this reception. Breathe. Aside from a degree and postgraduate diploma in law I must have also been the lucky benefactor of a cool composed poker face because the way my mind was reeling in that moment when I could barely gather my wits and say something sensible to the man my face was the exact opposite. Okay so I actually met Jidenna. Scream. He introduced himself to me by the way not the other around. I met and interacted with all suave, witty, stylish and talented Jidenna. The cheeky glint in this man’s eyes is enough to let me know he is everything he sings about in his lyrics. Guess what, I actually remembered to say my own name and was completely calm when he put his arm around me to take a picture. Also did I mention his stylist complemented my look, and no she was not being kind. Now we can loose our minds!!!
If you are scared of heights then you do not want to go anywhere near 6 ft 9 inches of James Michael McAdoo of the Golden State Warriors. Unless of course you want some of his talent on the court to rub off on you then it is worth the risk. McAdoo who is in the country running a basketball camp for children in Kawangware also showed his support to the Jr NBA League and commended the effort by NBA Africa to pass on fundamental life skills to children globally. In the same breathe former athletes Kipchoge Keino and Paul Tergat were in attendance and excited to see the future of basketball in the country all acknowledging that all sports form part of foundational discipline in the nurturing of children. They are definitely authorities when it comes to sports.
Come finals the next day, I was operating on few hours of sleep and Energizer bunny type excitement levels.
All the lessons I needed about basketball I learned from Lovings Otieno within the first minute of tip-off. The MVP, showed excellent talent and teamwork where he and the Mathare Slum Dunk Nets dominated the first quarter, honestly the entire game, giving the Kawangare based Golden State Warriors a run for their money. I am not the best sports narrator but from my view on the court side, the Nets took advantage of their opponents weak point guard to gain leverage over them. Unlike the NBA league, the Warriors ate humble pie taking second place but it was not without a fight, the finals ended with Nets winning with 37 to 16 points against the Warriors. Undeniably talent and teamwork were the main take-aways from the day as both teams displayed excellent sportsmanship, we definitely have the next Michael Jordan amongst us.
Everything in between just served to amp up the energies and keep both the children and myself psyched for the game.
Between the Slum Drummers of Kenya, Musa Dancers and the Chicago Bulls Dunkers I was ready to sign up to a lifetime of court side entertainment. My personal favourite after the first two were the Chicago Bulls Dunkers whose fiery performances left everyones jaws dropped. Before this I had spent the afternoon with them at Makini School later the same evening at the reception but had no idea how much talent they had. Their energy is infectious each of them adding their own spice to the show. If you ask me, Alonzo Steen can take on the entire All blacks against and their Haka and scare them, Chris Coleman and his dancing deadlocks is all swag, Joseph McGhee is the sensible one, he is the one to send ahead of everyone to meet important people so they don’t think the dunkers are all nuts while Ryan Ward is the silent blue-eyed giant often going unnoticed until you are treated to his air walk.
Needless to say at the end of the weekend all I can think about is the NBA Africa Game on August 5th in Johannesburg South Africa. Going by the pace set at the Ford Jr NBA Finals there is a brewing African passion and talent for basketball. Come August I will be rooting for Team Africa, do you have your ticket ready?
PHOTOGRAPHY : NUSU-NUSU
Gina Din-Kariuki, Paul Tergat, DCM Mirembe Nantongo, Jidenna, Ambassador Bob Godec, Amadou Gallo Fall, Ryan Majiwa, James Micahel McAdoo & Kipchoge Keino at the US embassy Reception for Ford Jr NBA Nairobi
From left Jidenna, Amadou Gallo Fall, Ryan Majiwa & James Michael McAdoo
Me & Chicago Bulls Dunker Alonzo Steen
Me & Chicago Bulls Dunker Ryan Ward
Kipchoge Keino & Paul Tergat sharing a moment
Jidenna & I
Amoudou Gallo Fall with MVP Lovings Otieno & James Michael McAdoo
Dancing rasta, Chris Coleman of the Chicago Bulls Dunkers
Nets v. Warriors
Air walking Ryan Ward of the Chicago Bulls Dunkers
Champions of the day Mathare’s Slum Dunk Nets