When the very first NBA game in Africa tips off in Johannesburg this Saturday, it’s a safe bet that one of the Gasol brothers will be standing at center court for the jump ball. Spaniards Pau and Marc Gasol round out a stacked Team World roster that also includes NBA stalwarts Chris Paul, Bradley Beal, and Kenneth Faried.
Coached by San Antonio Spurs skipper Gregg Popovich, Team Africa is comprised of NBA players with a connection to the host continent including captain Luol Deng who was born in South Sudan, Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose parents are from Nigeria, and Boris Diaw, whose father is from Senegal.
“When I heard about the NBA Africa game I jumped at the chance to participate,” said Pau Gasol about the historic friendly. “The continent of Africa has a special meaning for me through my Foundation. I look forward to putting on a great show for the fans and taking part in activities in the local community.”
Back in February, Pau made history with his younger sibling, becoming the first brothers to tip off against each other in an NBA All-Star Game. A month later, the elder Gasol achieved another NBA milestone becoming the highest scoring Hispanic player in league history, in a victory for the Chicago Bulls.
The two-time NBA champion has visited South Africa, Angola, Ethiopa, and Chad as a UNICEF ambassador, and is dedicated to positively influencing the lives of young people though the Gasol Foundation. Founded in 2003 with brother Marc, the Gasol Foundation recently earned the brothers the Princess of Asturias Award for Sports, reconizing their exemplary efforts in social work.
On the hardwood, the two big men have excelled since being traded for each other in 2008. Pau played a key role in back-to-back NBA chamionships for the Lakers, before joining the Bulls via free agency. Marc has developed into arguably the best center in the game, and re-signed with the Memphis Grizzlies earlier this month, for a reported $100 million over the next five years.
In addition to the exhibition game this weekend, the Gasol brothers will participate in the 13th edition of the league’s Basketball without Borders, which to date has impacted more than 2,300 campers from 125 different countries and territories. Campers develop their games, and attend sessions on leadership, health, and wellness as part of the community outreach program. Marc is one of 22 former campers who was on an NBA roster last season.
“I am extremely proud to be a part of the NBA’s first game in Africa,” said Deng, another former camper, who is serving as host for the contest. “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.”