Kevin Durant had never won in 39 games in the colours of the USA basketball team. On Saturday night in Las Vegas, Nigeria put that record to rest with a 90-87 victory that showed just how competitive the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Games can be and said a lot about the African country’s progress.
The Nigerians won their game. This is a huge turnaround from when they lost to the Americans. They had a really big score in 2012: 156-73.
From record defeat to stunning victory for Nigeria
Since the 2012 Olympics, Nigerian basketball has grown. In the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Nigeria scored a victory over USA Basketball. The managing director of USA Basketball said that Nigerian basketball has come a long way since 2012.
The Nigerian team has submitted their final squad for the Tokyo Olympics.
Eight of the twelve basketball players in the game are from the NBA. That is more representation in Tokyo. The best team will be made up of American players.
Precious Achivua, Caleb Agada, Obi Emegano, Chimesi Metu, Jordan Nwora, Jalil Okafor, Josh Okogie, Stan Okoye, Kay Z Okpala, Miye Oni, Ekpe Udoh, Gabe Vincent.
Nigeria, led by Mike Brown, will play in Group B alongside Australia, Italy and Germany.
Sustainability of strategy in question
Nigerians are playing basketball in the US. In 2020, there were 8 Nigerian players drafted by the NBA, and 19 already playing in the league. Nigerians usually play as defenders or forwards. But they are now beginning to have an influence on international basketball teams because of their skills.
Other countries could look to the US for talent in basketball. This might be hard on people who are already good at playing basketball and want to get better.
There are questions about how sustainable this model is in the long term. Omo-Osagie believes that interest in the programme from Nigerian Americans may wane in the coming years. “Right now, it is fashionable for Nigerian Americans to play for Nigeria. In the future, enthusiasm may wane.” He says that they need a good program at home that will be complemented by American players otherwise there’s no point of having a Nigerian federation at home.
Nigeria is competing in basketball for the third time. It will be at the Olympics this summer. They promise to do well. They are also not forgetting that they will be the only African team there and that every game will be tough, so they won’t ask for anything. If Nigeria does well, all these worries can go away – at least until next year’s Olympics.