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 on the court with a handful of players from the continent emerging as stand-out or franchise players for their various teams.
With the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend set to take place in Chicago in February, the voting results for the starters for the Eastern and Western Conference for the highlight event of the weekend, the All-Star Game, were revealed Thursday with some familiar as well as new faces making the list. The players were selected by fans, current NBA players and a media panel.
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The reserve players will be announced next week Thursday.
For the Western Conference, future Hall of Famer and LA Lakers star, Lebron James, was selected as captain with Anthony Davis (LA Lakers), James Harden (Houston Rockets), Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks) and Kawhi Leonard (LA Clippers) filling the remaining starting spots.
In the Eastern Conference, on the other hand, history was made with a majority of the starters putting Africa on the map. For the first time ever in NBA All-Star Game history, we’re going to see three African players on a starting team with one of them as captain.
Still going strong after winning the Most Valuable Player last season, Milwaukee Bucks star player Giannis Sina Ougko Antetokounmpo, who has undoubtedly been one the best players in the league over the past few seasons, will also captain the Eastern Conference team for the second season in a row. Giannis, who plays for the Greek national basketball team, was born in Athens to Nigerian parents.
Joining the ‘Greek Freak’ as a starter is fellow African and Toronto Raptors star player Pascal Siakam. Born in Douala, Cameroon, Siakam won the Most Improved Player award at the 2019 NBA Awards after helping the Raptors win their first-ever NBA championship.
After he was announced as a starter, the 25-year-old couldn’t help but share his excitement.
“I appreciate every single one of y’all who voted for me! Your support means everything,” he shared on Instagram.
Siakam’s compatriot, Joel Embiid, was also named a starter. This makes it the third consecutive time he has been selected as an All-Star player and the second time in a row as a starter.
Embiid is also the first 76ers player to start in three straight All-Star games since Allen Iverson started seven in a row from 2000 to 2006.
“Congratulations to Joel on being named an All-Star starter for the third consecutive season,” Philadelphia 76ers General Manager Elton Brand said.
“Through his continued hard work and intense desire to win, Joel has quickly established himself as one of our game’s most dominant players and a cornerstone of our franchise. His combination of power and finesse is truly special, as is the unique connection he’s made to our fans in Philadelphia. This is well-deserved, and we look forward to Joel representing the Philadelphia 76ers in Chicago during All-Star Weekend.”
Kemba Walker (Boston Celtics) and Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks) are the remaining two Eastern Conference starters.