The sport of basketball grows every single year. Somehow we keep surpassing the talent and records of previous generations as the new players come into the NBA. While basketball may have had humble beginnings as a gymnasium pastime, it has become a global phenomenon and thus, talented players are being sourced from all over the world. In the modern day NBA, there are some exceptional African players that are blazing trails. Let’s take a look at the best African basketball players in the NBA today.
At just 26 years old, Giannis is at the top of the sport and is considered to be among the top 5 players alive. From the moment he joined the league, it was clear that there was something special about this Nigerian/Greek athlete. As the top draft pick of 2013, he had massive expectations placed on him from fans and analysts, and he has surpassed these expectations considerably.
Since becoming part of the Milwaukee Bucks, Giannis has single handedly turned the team around. The Bucks have made the playoffs numerous times and it is clear that Giannis wants a championship. Sadly, Giannis had an ankle injury that ended the Bucks’ playoff run last season. However, when Giannis is healthy, the NBA betting odds often favor the Bucks. Going forward, Giannis is expected to surpass the current greats of the NBA like LeBron James and Kevin Durant.
Giannis’ family is from Lagos, Nigeria, and immigrated to Greece in 1994. After picking up the sport, his early coaches knew immediately he was a standout athlete. He made his NBA debut and is one of the youngest players to ever turn professional in the league alongside basketball legends like Kobe Bryant. Since then, it has been a straight upward trajectory for Giannis.
Thus far in his 8-year career, Giannis has received numerous awards and has respectable statistics to back them up. He was named the NBA Most Valuable Player two times and NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2020. He averages 20-29 points per game, which is especially good considering how much defense he plays.
Siakam has spurred numerous comparisons to Giannis. He is a tall, aggressive power forward, and is also only 26 years old. A native born Cameroonian, Siakam immigrated to the US with dreams of being a professional basketball player. In 2016, his wish was granted as he was selected #27 overall by the Toronto Raptors, where he remains to this day.
After helping the team win the 2019 championship, Siakam was granted a massive contract extension. The 4-year $130 million dollar deal is impressive and Siakam certainly deserves it as he is a consistent force that averaged 20 points a game in 2020 while creating scoring opportunities for teammates with his skillful style.
Serge Ibaka is a massive 6’10” power forward for the Los Angeles Clippers. Originally from the Congo, he travelled to France and then Spain in pursuit of his dream of becoming an NBA player. At 31 years old, he has had a fantastic career that is still going strong, and has played for four different NBA teams in that time.
Ibaka was a very productive player for all of his past teams, contributing on both offense and defense. For his efforts, he has been nominated to the NBA All-Defensive First Team three times and was the NBA Blocks Leader twice. This is while maintaining a 12 points per game average. In 2019, he contributed to the Toronto Raptors’ championship season.
Joel Embiid is a well-known player that receives a lot of attention from basketball analysts. As the center for the Philadelphia 76ers, Embiid has a big responsibility to get momentum going for his line. Embiid was born in Cameroon, but came to the US at 16 years old. Since joining the 76ers in 2014 after being selected #3 overall, he has been simply sensational for the squad.
Standing at seven feet tall, Embiid is simply massive, even compared to other players. He has received numerous awards for his defensive style of play that enables him to stop the progress of the opposing team and bring the ball back to his teammates. Just this past February, Embiid scored a career-high 50 points against the Chicago Bulls.