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Wayne Lumbasi

The National Basketball Association, better known by its acronym, NBA, is a men’s professional basketball league in North America, comprising 29 United States-based teams and one Canadian-based team.

The NBA has seen a meteoric rise in African representation in one of the most popular leagues in the world. 

A commendable feat, this has manifested in the court with a handful of players from the continent emerging as stand-out or franchise players for their various teams. A significant portion of international players in the NBA from Africa are following the footsteps of past greats who went to the NBA to make their mark and later left its teams.

African countries have also caught the buzz as the continent now has its own international basketball tournament where scouts from the prestigious North American league come to look for players. This is because those who have made it to the NBA have gone ahead to prove that they are not just good but excellent at the game.

This list is a compilation of such noticeable stars in NBA with African roots who have done the continent proud.

OG Anunoby


Anunoby was born to Nigerian parents who lived in London. He was raised by his father following his mother’s death to cancer shortly after he was born.

The Nigerian-British basketball player moved to Jefferson City Missouri in the United States with his father, Ogugua Sr who had secured a job at Lincoln University.

His basketball career began at Jefferson City High School and spread in his university days at Indiana University. In 2017, he was selected in the NBA draft by Toronto Raptors. Famous as the 2019 NBA champion, OG has since proven that he was born to play basketball.

Thon Maker


Thon Maker’s career story began when he and his relatives ran out of South Sudan to find shelter in Uganda in a bid to escape the civil war.

After they were accepted as refugees by Australia and the family settled in, he was discovered by a man named Edward Smith, an Australian of African-American heritage who nurtures kids from migrant backgrounds. Smith struck a deal with Maker’s family and took him to the United States where he began to hone his basketball skills.

He later moved to Ontario, Canada which marked the beginning of the success he is today. His athleticism and strength on the court earned him a reputation as a defensive beast, blocking shots with fierceness, shooting from the perimeter with accuracy, and spectacular saves in playoffsHe has played for Milwaukee Bucks and Detroit Pistons.

Pascal Siakam


Pascal Siakam who is from Cameroon is one of the most consistent players in the NBA. He plays for Toronto Raptors. His career history shows that growing up, he was the academic star of his family. Unlike his brothers who earned scholarships with sports to different NCAA Division I colleges, he was nursing the thought of becoming a Catholic Priest.

However, Pascal gave up on that thought to become a professional basketballer. It turns out to have been a good career move as he has become a shining star in the game with a smooth vibe, carrying himself in a very energetic manner. In his career that started in 2016, he has won many notable honors including NBA champion (2019) NBA All-Star (2020) NBA Most Improved Player (2019) NBA D-League champion (2017), WAC Player of the Year (2015 and 2016) among others.

Bismarck Biyombo


Bismarck Biyombo is an NBA star who hails from the Democratic Republic of Congo. He was born on August 28, 1992, in Congo. The 6 ft. 8 in (2.03 m) tall player has played for notable teams including Fuenlabrada-Getafe Madrid, CB Illescas, Baloncesto Fuenlabrada, Charlotte Bobcats / Hornets, Toronto Raptors, and Orlando Magic. 

Biyombo was selected with the seventh overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft by the Sacramento Kings before being immediately traded to the Charlotte Bobcats. He has been ranked as one of the highest-paid African players in the NBA with a very bright future and is one of the top blockers in the league.

Joel Embiid


For two seasons (2016-2017), Embiid was delayed from starting his career after he was drafted in 2014 due to knee and foot injuries. However, once he debuted, he proved that nothing was going to hold him back from achieving his life goals.

Among the many spectacular records which the player will be remembered for are recording a career-high 46 points—the highest by a Philadelphia player in 11 years, having seven assists and seven blocked shots, which makes him the first NBA player with 40 points, seven assists and seven blocks in a game since Julius Erving against the Pistons in 1982.

Embiid has also received All-Star selections three times and there are indications that the best may still be yet to come for the Cameroonian basketball player.

Luol Deng


Luol Deng is another African player who has hit the heights in the NBA. Deng was born on April 16, 1985, in Wau, Sudan (modern-day South Sudan). His family left the embattled African nation for England where they were granted political asylum as the second Sudanese civil war broke out.

From England, Deng moved to the United States to play basketball in both High School and College. After a year of playing college basketball at Duke University, Deng entered the 2004 NBA draft and was picked seventh overall by the Phoenix Suns. He went on to play for the Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Miami Heat, and the LA Lakers.

Through his 14 years in the league, he’s averaged 15 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists on 45.5% from the floor and 33.2% from three-point territory.

Hakeem Olajuwon


Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon, regarded as the most talented center in NBA history and the best African player to play in the NBA, is number one on the best African basketball stars list. Born in Lagos, Nigeria on January 21, 1963, Hakeem had never played the game of basketball until he arrived in the United States in 1980.

He, however, went on to become one of the top centers to ever play the game. He played in the NBA for 18 years, winning double NBA Championships in 1994 and 1995 and was named NBA Finals MVP both times.

He was also a 12-time NBA All-Star, two-time Defensive Player of the Year, an Olympic gold medalist, among many other accolades. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008. Hakeem Olajuwon is no doubt one of the greatest players the NBA has ever seen.

Emmanuel Mudiay


Of the many things Emmanuel Mudiay has accomplished, being awarded NBA All-Rookie Second Team (2016), McDonald’s All-American (2014), and First-team Parade All-American (2014) are quite notable.

Just like some on the list, Mudiay’s basketball career kicked off as a result of instability caused by his home country’s civil war. He was born in Congo. Following the death of his father and given the risk of living in an unstable region, his family sought asylum in the United States.

His love for basketball started right from high school which led him to play for Grace Preparatory Academy and Prime Prep Academy in Texas. He later shunned college and instead signed up with the Guangdong Southern Tigers basketball team in China. After fighting injuries, he got drafted in NBA in 2015. He has played for Guangdong Southern Tigers, Denver Nuggets, New York Knicks and Utah Jazz.

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Wayne Lumbasi