“I am extremely proud to be a part of the NBA’s first game in Africa,” Deng, two-time NBA all-star, said via SuperSport, the South African television channel slated to air the event. “Coming from South Sudan and having participated in the Basketball Without Borders Africa camps in Johannesburg previously, I am truly honored to be part of this historic event.”
Paul, an eight-time all-star, said he was equally honored to have been chosen to captain a team.
“I look forward to representing Team World in the first NBA game in Africa,” Paul said. “It will be my first visit to the continent, and I cannot wait to contribute to the growth of the game on and off the court.”
The full roster of players will be announced at a later date, but several other NBA executives, coaches, general managers and former players have already announced their intentions to come. The include: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, 2014-15 NBA coach of the year Mike Budenholzer of the Atlanta Hawks, San Antonio Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich, Brooklyn Nets Coach Lionel Hollins, Boston Celtics Coach Brad Stevens, New Orleans Pelicans Coach Monty Williams, Brooklyn Nets General Manager Billy King, Toronto Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri, NBA Global Ambassador Dikembe Mutombo and NBA Africa Ambassador Hakeem Olajuwon.
“The NBA has worked hard to grow the game of basketball in Africa, and I am excited to take this next step of playing our first game on the continent,” Silver said. “Our players have been tremendous partners in this effort, and all of us look forward to sharing the authentic NBA experience and the values of our game with fans in Africa.”
The exhibition game in South Africa comes five years after the NBA opened an office in the country in 2010. The NBA is hoping to establish a foothold in the country that might one day be able to compete with soccer, the continent’s most popular sport.
The NBA has also used its programs in Africa to raise money for charity. The proceeds earned from the Johannesburg exhibition game will go to benefit two charities focused on children as well as the foundation of the late Nelson Mandela.
To date, more than 35 players have come from Africa to play in the NBA since Hall of Fame inductee Olajuwon was drafted in 1984, according to the NBA (via SuperSport).