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Odegbami: Nigerian Basketball- Knocking On The Door Of Greatness

Odegbami: Nigerian Basketball- Knocking On The Door Of Greatness

Nigerian Basketball – The times and signs are ominous on the political and economic scene in Nigeria. At the same time, there is a rainbow in the sky – bright and colourful, but brief.

Aspects of the entertainment industry, surprisingly, are thriving and showing up as perfect antithesis to the challenges the entire country is going through during this period of a global pandemic that has grounded life the way we used to live it.

Even the Nigerian sports sector that used to suffer the most vilification for lack of direction and proper development of its domestic sector, throws up the occasional bright spots of hope and opportunities. These break through the dark clouds of despair, and shine the light of possibilities on the gloomy landscape.

The reason is simple. Blacks of African descent, are born athletes, designed by nature for some specific sports. They come with DNAs laden with physical strength, explosive speed and power. When they discover the particular sport that feeds on their unique genes, and they hone them, they start to flourish and excel in the sport.

Mentally, they are prepared to succeed because that’s the surest way to survive. They are toughened by the harsh and hard conditions under which the Black person lives everywhere on earth. To ‘win’ is the way to beat the oppression, discrimination, inequality, as well as the uneven playing fields offered him by other human species of other colours. That is the harsh and brutal reality – the Black person is alone in his corner.

Despite this bleak global atmosphere, Nigerians continue to throw up reminders of what they can achieve if only the conditions were right, the right structures were in place, and things were done differently, particularly in applying tested systems and structures from other climes to refine their own gifted, human ‘raw materials’

So, Nigeria, as the leader of the black race by virtue of her largest harbour of Blacks on earth, and one of the largest suppliers and exporters of their healthiest and strongest from Africa during the slave trade, continues to carry the cross of that distant past, only demonstrating ‘potentials’, never achieving maximally, never benefitting maximally too, always creating the ‘rainbows’ in the sky – beautiful but brief.

Thats what has happened again on the eve of another edition of the greatest human event, the Olympic Games.

Nigeria has come up again with another powerful demonstration of the African man’s capability to do in basketball what ‘Napoleon Bonaparte could not do on the battle field of war’.

In a series of pre-Olympic Games exhibition, but highly contested, matches, Nigeria took on the greatest country in the history of basketball, the USA, on their own turf, and to the consternation of the world and followers of basketball, did a ‘David’, and defeated ‘Golliath’.

In a single match that was contested toe to toe for the entire 4 quarters of a terrific ‘champagne’ thriller, the world was roused from a slumber that has lasted over 4 Centuries to confront a stark new reality that Africans have arrived at another tipping point where a new day and a new dawn in basketball beckon, where Africa becomes the new future and the next frontier, and Nigeria, the country taking the lead.

Last week, completely from the blues, totally unexpectedly, Americans were caught by surprise when Nigeria presented the first African basketball team in history to defeat the all-powerful and highest-ranked team in the world.

The signifance of that victory is that having tasted the ‘forbidden fruit’ of unexpected but well-earned victories, there is now no turning back. I can testify that the victories are an elixir, once tasted, forever smitten.

It started at the Olympic Games of 1996 in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. A Nigerian football team called the Super Eagles, came from ‘nowhere’, playing unbelievable football, parading a group of players hewn by the country’s harsh environment and refined by the established sports cultures of European football, to produce an awesome display of attacking, free flowing, unadulterated football, a mixture of natural talent, flair and sophisticated training, to outplay two of the greatest footballing countries in history – Brazil and Argentina. Nigeria took them on, back to back, and deservedly carted away the Gold Medal for the first time in the history of the Olympics.

The consequence of that victory is the arrival of Africans to the door of new possibilities in the global stage. The ‘calabash’ of inferiority was broken. African footballers realised they could win at any level of competition, including the World Cup. Belief in that possibility bursted through their veins like a long smouldering volcano that suddenly explodes.

4 years after that Nigerian feat in Atlanta, during the next Summer Games in Sydney in 2000, because Nigeria had done it before, another African country, Cameroon, performed a similar feat and won the Gold medal in football. The genie had escaped from the bottle. Winning is no longer a sacred and exclusive right of only a few countries in football.

When Blacks in America discovered their natural flair for basketball, they took over the sport. When Blacks in America discovered their natural relationship with the sprints and jumps, they have since then been dominating those events in world athletics.

When Jamaicans tasted the once-hidden Bkack-American power of sprinting and jumping, they started to compete with them after deploying same strategies for development. They are actually winning the contest between both countries now.
All it takes is self-discovery of an inherent natural talent, which when refined, can open up new levels in performance that can create champions.

Last week, finally, it was Nigeria’s turn to etch her name and place in global basketball hierarchy. It now makes sense how the country could produce a Hakeem ‘the Dream’ Olajuwon one of the greatest basketball players in history. It is both in our stars as weĺl as in our genes.

3 days after that historic feat against The USA, D’Tigers, as the Nigerian national basketball team for men is nicknamed, in confirming their new status, took on the 4th best-ranked team in the world, Argentina, and trounced them resoundingly too.

That was affirming that this new development is no fluke. The world of basketball must wake up immediately to the new reality – Nigeria has arrived at the highest levels of basketball. Henceforth, anything is possible. Even a podium place at Tokyo 2020, unlikely on paper, cannot be considered farfetched and impossible now.

Nigeria lost its third exhibition match to another basketball giant, Australia. It did not matter much. It was an essential wake up call for the team not to rest on their oars, not to take things and teams for granted, but to keep working harder and be more consistent, at this level.
Undoubtedly, the team’s arrival at the apex level of the game is now established.

As Tokyo 2020 commences, hopes are high that Nigeria can be on the podium at the end, even though it would really not matter if they do, or not.

What is most important is tasting the nectar of victory, which they did during the pre-Olympics exhibition matches. At the Olympics proper, anything is now possible with the D’Tigers.

Beyond the men’s team is the extra possibility of an icing on the cake for Nigeria.
The women’s team is also in Tokyo.

The world should watch out for a double performance. They women are applying the same prescriptions for their training as the men. They are deploying similar strategic formulae on honing their natural athleticism with the high technical development in Collegiate basketball in America. The team comprises mostly Nigerians born and bred in the US, and now being passed through the furnace of WNBA processes to become world class players.

Culturally, Nigerian female athletes often perform better than their male counterparts in most sports. The records speak.

With such a background, that what the men can do the women can do even better, D’Tigress, the female national basketball team, have been injected with the ‘virus’ of achievements by the exploits of the men’s team. The girls are fired up and raring to go and shatter, also, the barrier of any previously hindering complex. They are brimming with determination and new confidence that can impact results in the women’s event at the Olympics.

So, all eyes are trained on Nigeria’s basketball teams 7 days to the Tokyo Games, as Nigeria knocks on the door of greatness in basketball!’

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  • Oakfield 6 days ago

    @chief mr ex cricket international, Odegbami, i wonder why u didnt write such an article when rohr and his boys pummeled Argentina or almost won brazil in a friendly abi those ones dy different? that team you’re just praising to the highest heavens is not implementing your local content policy that you and your cohorts have imposed on our football teams o! Abi, basketball no follow join???? Don’t we have good domestic basketball players that should take the place of these foreign borns??? You people want the right thing to be done with the basketball team, getting good players from any part of the globe as long as they are nigerians and good but don’t want same thing to be done to our football teams. Oh yes, we know why. Rohr has really spoilt una biz badly. You guys have been eating from the bins since Rohr came on board and you can’t take it any more, hence, promulgating a using policy by the minster through the nff so that una go start chopping again.

  • pompei 6 days ago

    The Nigerian team that beat the USA was comprised mainly of USA BORN AND BRED players of Nigerian origin, and they had a USA coach. So actually, from the standpoint of country of birth, and/or where they were raised and cultural values, the USA beat the USA. But from the standpoint of blood/heritage, Nigeria beat the USA. With the help of a USA gaffer.
    If we had played the USA with homebased players and a local coach, we would not have had a similar result. Not even close.
    As my colleague Oakfield said, this same appreciation for our basketball teams (male and female) should be extended to the Super Eagles. Just like we see in basketball, for now the success combo in the SE is a seasoned foreign coach, and foreign based players, either Nigerian born playing abroad, or foreign born with Nigerian blood. If we can fix our local league, and it becomes a conveyor belt, churning out young local talents like England have been doing of late, AND THESE GUYS ARE THE BEST WE HAVE COMPARED WITH THEIR FOREIGN BASED COLLEAGUES, then the argument can be made that we should have a 100% home-based squad with a local head coach.
    Meritocracy can get us to the very top in global sports, as our male basketball team is demonstrating.

    • JimmyBall 6 days ago

      … Nobody is saying the football team should be overhauled for a complete homebased squad… we are just saying you cannot have over 450 professional homebased footballers and you cannot find even atleast two raw talents within a good age of atmost 24yrs to integrate with the foreign based especially to rub shoulders with them during camping and help them learn and take their game higher… We have always done it in the past. If we say the level of local league football is not what it used to be in the distant past… how about not too long ago, Stephen Keshi showed us it is very possible? Italy could not qualify for last World Cup and barely three years… with a change of coaching personnel, with relatively unknown squad players… they have achieved the status of European Masters again… How about that? A positive and developmental coach will not just paint all homebased players with the same brush…
      if anything… we are supposed to be applauding
      homebased players for their toughness and
      determination for playing UNDER Sometimes
      very tough inhumane conditions especially

      • Mr Hush 6 days ago

        “Rubbing shoulders” to what end?

        Rubbing shoulders for the sake of making the home based players feel good does nothing for no one.
        It neither improves the local league or make the Super Eagles better.

        In fact, the contrary is the case; once this local based players get into the Super Eagles camp, they suddenly become foreign base on virtue of moving abroad. So it simply a vicious circle , with no positive addition to the homefront.

        Simply put,as far as the Super Eagles is concerned, we should go for merit. The best of the best. The Super Eagles is for the Elite not a baby daycare.

        The Italian league has always been good. It has always been ranked top 5 of the best leagues in the world. So Italy failing to qualify for the past world cup has nothing to do with the Italian serie A or player’s quality but more to do with coaching and management.
        Can you say that of the Nigerian league?

        Keep bringing up Keshi. But you forget to say why and how Kehsi’s time ended.

        Objectively , to fix everything, we should go the route of the NBBF. Stick to merit. Pick your best leg no matter where they are as long they are Nigerians and willing to honourably represent us. Simultaneously, fixing your homefront from the root.
        It is going to take a lot of time and effort but it has to be done or we can keep forgetting about local base representing us cause they wouldn’t be good enough. No one wants to keep seeing disastrous result like a 4- 0 loss to Mexico , all in the name of “rubbing shoulders”!

        For now, merit is the word. The past has nothing on the present..

        • Dr. Drey 6 days ago

          “Rub shoulders”….”Gain confidence” common phrases by the homebased proponents. None of them has ever categorically stated and can beat their chest that so so homebased player is the BEST Nigerian players available in that position. We have a basketball league in Nigeria, we have Rivers Hoopers who represented Nigeria in the recently concluded African basketball league. We have the likes of First Bank, Customs, Dodan Warriors, First Deepwater etc we have basketballers in Nigeria, but we NEVER won Afrobasket nor qualified for the world cup or Olympics until we started selecting our BEST who are all abroad. 2015 the guys won, 2017 and 2019 it was the ladies. Its not about the quantity of basketballers we have playing at home…its about the quality.

          Same applies to football, we have thousands of footballers who dont even measure up against quality opposition. We saw it against Mexico, we werent expecting them to win or even pull a draw, but we didnt expect that the so-called best talents in the league wouldnt even know how/where to position themselves on a football pitch….all of them packing themselves to one side of the pitch like the amateurs they are. We conceeded 3 out of 4 goals from horrible positioning…..It was that bad an eyesore for people we call TALENTS. The best 50 Nigerian footballers are aboard….argue it till thy kingdom come and you will never win the argument. A 2nd division Abraham Marcus made all of us stand up from our feet within minutes of his debut, our $1m dollar NPFL MVP has been huffing and puffing in 4 matches with zero meaningful contribution. If only 3 2nd division players from Spain, Portugal, France or Italy were in that team that played Mexico, they would still be only ones that would have been worth talking about after the game…that’s how wide the gulf in class is. Go to the Superfalcons too, the foreign based are the better players. We went to the US invitational tournament with about 12 homebased, only the foreign based ones like Alozie, the Paynes, Ajibade stood out. Anther tournament is coming up…I bet same we’ll still witness the same thin. If it is still not clear to some people that something is fundamentally wrong with production lines from the home front, especially the domestic leagues, that churns out quantity but zero quality, quality that matches global standards, then I wish them all the best. But the National team is not a creche where players who are up to scratch are to be groomed…the national team is for elite players, the best of the best. Its that simple.

          Its rather shocking Mr Sege is now eulogizing the basketball teams now, but was the chief instigator of the hiring of an errand boy who cannot even furnish something as basic as as adequate scouting report as SE asst coach and even touting him as the man to lead us to the 2022 WC….advocating for our football the complete opposites of what has catapulted our basketball teams to greatness. If the NBBF has appointed Olumide Oyedeji as coach of DTigers simply because he is and exinternational and not a qualified coach and also mandated him to reserve slots for the MANY TALENTS in the league, I wonder if the team would be where it is today. The NBBF has show us a template, if we like we should use it, if we like we should continue with the one-step-forward-5-steps-backward, pull-him-down syndrome that we are good at in our football.

      • Douglas john ufuoma 6 days ago

        Pls name any home base players that can dislodge the current players, do ur glorify home base not prove themselves first with wafu, home base tournament first. Why can’t they challenge for all continental cup, then we will take them serious. Do u mean to tell me that Nigeria don’t have a functioning basketball league, or u mean to tell we can’t still prove a good home base basket baller. Can u reserve a position or slot for locals in ur company in a sensitive position of which u know they can met up to expectation. What happen to others they gave opportunity, my boss let ur conscience be ur judge

      • OmoEsan 6 days ago

        @Dr Drey, Hush, Oakfield, Pompei et al, thank you for always telling them the truth.

        Please leave the proponents of ‘shoulder rubbing ‘ to their folly oo!, no be only shoulder them go rubb, them go soon rubb yansh join.

  • Chux 4 days ago

    So Odegbami knows that Europe has been refining our SE players,yet he’s been canvassing for home-based players to be in the SE.