The Raptors organization was well represented at NBA Africa 2017. In the second ever game played on the continent, Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and Masai Ujiri all attended the NBA Basketball Without Borders event that included basketball clinics, daily life skill seminars for the campers, and also a day of work giving back with Habitat for Humanity. In the end, on the basketball court, it was Lowry who earned bragging rights over his teammate, as Team World defeated Team Africa 108-97 in Saturday’s game.
Lowry finished with 13 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals in 23 minutes of action as Team World pulled away from Team Africa late. Team World had built an early 33-19 lead after the opening quarter, but Team Africa came right back in the second quarter, before Team World went ahead with a three-point advantage at the half. After a back-and-forth third quarter, the game was tied at 77 heading into the fourth. With his team holding a one-point lead with 1:05 remaining, Lowry made back-to-back shots to extend Team World’s lead to five points, helping to seal the victory. Ibaka finished with seven points, three rebounds, an assist and a block in the loss as Team Africa was led by Victor Oladipo who recorded 28 points, nine rebounds, five assists, one steal and one block en route to being named Game MVP.
While the game was the main event, for the players, the opportunity to give back was something they’ll never forget.
“[Thursday] with Habitat for Humanity, building homes for the people in need here [was amazing],” Lowry said. “I think we built 10 homes. It’s just being out here and giving back as much as we possibly can. And then going through camp and helping the campers, giving them little insights on how to play, how to help them. The experience, it’s an honor to be here and a pleasure of mine to be around.”
Like Lowry, Ibaka was thrilled with the NBA’s commitment to giving back.
“It means a lot to me,” Ibaka said. “It’s something I love to do. I’ve been doing this kind of work the last eight years now, since I’ve been in the league and I love to do it, every time I have an opportunity to come back home and do those kind of things, to me, it’s a blessing and it’s my job, it’s my job to do that because I know theres a lot of people watching, a lot of young kids watching, one day, they are going to make it out of there and it’s always good to show them how those things work. Wherever you make it one day, you never forget where you come from.”
“Thank the NBA Cares for giving me this opportunity to do this again. I’ve been doing this kind of work with my foundation back home in the Congo, before here, and having another opportunity to come here and do it again, I feel blessed for that.”
Lowry brought his family along with him for the experience. Heading into his 11th season, Lowry is no stranger to the opportunities his platform as an NBA All-Star have given him. Still, getting the chance to make a positive impact doesn’t ever get old.
“The game has taken me so many places, and this is another place that I can take off the checklist now,” Lowry said. “The game of basketball has been amazing to me, to my family. I understand that. That’s why I appreciate it and I give so much back to the game. Being able to experience these things from the game of basketball, it’s pretty cool. There’s no way to say I’m not happy about it. I love it, and I’ll always continue to give back to the game. The NBA and basketball has given so much to grow the game globally, [if] I have an opportunity to be there, to do it.”
“Masai really gives so much and gives back so much, and he’s so passionate about it,” he said. “For the president of your team to be so passionate about helping others, it just shows how much he cares about the continent that he’s from.”
Watching the growth of the event has been especially special for Ujiri who has worked on growing basketball in Africa since he entered the NBA.
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“It’s creating so much more awareness,” Ujiri said. “Kids are dreaming big, they’re believing. The business part, which is most important – and when I say that, we have to focus on building facilities and coaching the coaches and taking it to other places other than this – teaching people to go back to their communities and make a difference. Go do something else and improving them in that way is very important.
Over the years, it’s so important that they see JoJo Embiid and Luc Mbah a Moute and Gorgui Dieng, guys that have come out of this camp and gone and succeeded. When we do our life skills session, it’s important for us to mention that Luc Mbah a Moute was sitting in those seats, or Gorgui Dieng was sitting in those seats. And then the legends, you know, the Dikembe Mutombos, the work that Amadou Gallo Fall is doing down here, it’s good that these kids and people know that even if you don’t make the NBA, there are other things you can do related to sports. And that’s how big the NBA is. This is definitely a great time.”
In addition to the Basketball Without Borders Africa festivities, Ujiri’s Giants of Africa will host skills camps in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Senegal throughout August.