Nicolas Batum got to take part in one of the coolest events of the NBA offseason, the NBA Africa game. Batum was a representative of team Africa alongside the Milwaukee Bucks Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Miami Heat's Luol Deng, the Minnesota TimberWolves Gorgui Dieng, and former Charlotte Hornet now current Toronto Raptor Bismack Biyombo.
Opposing team Africa was team World featuring NBA players from across the globe like the Memphis Grizzlies Marc Gasol, the Chicago Bulls Pau Gasol, the Orlando Magic's Nikola Vucevic, and the Los Angeles Clippers Chris Paul as captain. Players from all kinds of different nationalities, backgrounds, and NBA teams played in the exhibition all for the celebration of basketball in Africa.
Which really, in the end, is all the game was truly about. Basketball, as a global game, has grown so much and that might be doubly true in Africa. From a developmental standpoint, basketball is still a relatively new sport in the continent, and was always overlooked by Africans for sports such as soccer and cricket. It didn't really grab a foothold until players like Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutumbo, and Manute Bol made their mark on the NBA. Mutumbo in particular is famous for being an ambassador of the game, and using so much of the money he made to build hospitals help the living conditions in his home country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but also the entire continent of Africa. His volunteer work has gained him numerous awards, and been an inspiration to other players to do what they can to help out however they can. It's largely because of Mutumbo that today's exhibition took place at all.
So of course, in the game that he's largely responsible for, did Mutumbo get to actually play! Absolutely nothing is going to top the moment Mutumbo, and Hall of Fame member Hakeem Olajuwon, checked into today's exhibition.
Then, to make an already incredible moment even more amazing, Hakeem did what Hakeem does best.
Forget the rest of the game. Forget the final. Hakeem did a spin move and hit the jumpshot against NBA players in 2015. Life is wonderful, and this sport is the best thing ever.
As for how the actual game went. It was very much like an All-Star game. The defense that was being played was without a lot of effort, because nobody wanted to risk injury. Team Africa dominated for the majority of the game, but late in the fourth quarter a huge run, with some hot shooting, put team World into the lead. The Washington Wizard's Bradley Beal and the Memphis Grizzlies Jeff Green both went bonkers from 3-point land, and refused to let team World go down without a fight.
At this point of the game, pride took over, and players started to put in a little more effort. team Africa had an entire country behind their backs, and a stadium full of fans cheering for them. They couldn't let them down. Luol Deng in particular attempted to lead a quick come back with some 3-pointers from way behind the arc.
Unfortunately, their efforts weren't enough despite a late run, and team World came out on top over team Africa 101 to 97. Afterwards Chris Paul and Luol Deng, captains of both teams, were awarded MVP of the game.
As for the Hornets new acquisition in Nicolas Batum, he was largely absent for most of the game. He had moments here and there, but Batum took a backseat to other teammates, and didn't assert himself into the offense as much as players like Antetokounmpo did.
In the end, the NBA Africa game was a wild success, and hopefully it's something the NBA continues to do on a regular basis. The fans had fun, the players got to play with some legends, and Dikembe Mutumbo got a finger wag in. That's a very successful day for basketball in August.