The biggest weekend in the basketball calendar is underway. The NBA All-Star Weekend takes place in Chicago in its 69th edition, from 14-16th Feb with a packed agenda.
Events range from the Rising Stars showcase that will see first and second-year players compete, the Celebrity Game and ultimately the All-Star game that will feature Team Lebron James of the Los Angeles Lakers versus Team Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks as the two captains.
Two iconic personalities will be honoured by the NBA this All-Star Weekend, making it extraordinarily special to basketball lovers around the world.
The tragic news of the passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna Bryant shook the world. An 18 time All-Star with 5 NBA championships, Bryant influenced through his dedication to the game and his unending quest for perfection.
This weekend, the NBA will honour Kobe and his daughter Gianna by having the two teams wear the no.24 and no.2 jerseys that father and daughter wore, as well as using a play format largely centred around the no.24.
Also, a few weeks ago, the sports and business world lost David Stern, the former NBA Commissioner.
Stern played a pivotal role in transforming the leaguer to profitability and built a world-class organization and league that we see today. Current NBA Commissioner Adam Silver euologised Stern as one of the most influential business leaders of his generation. The basketball community will honour a man who helped build an entertainment brand that is truly global in nature.
Africa will be watching closely as several players will represent the continent. Two star players on Team Giannis are from Cameroon, Pascal Siakam of the Toronto Raptors and Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers. Giannis’ parents are originally from Nigeria.
That is not all for the motherland. Luol Deng, a just retired NBA player and two time All-Star, was named the Basketball Africa League (BAL) Global Ambassador in a timely announcement by the BAL president, Amadou Gallo Fall.
BAL is the only league by the NBA outside of North America, and is set to revolutionize pro basketball by tapping into the overflowing African talent while significantly impacting Africa economically.
Deng is currently the President of the South Sudan Basketball Federation and is well-positioned for the ambassadorial position. Deng is a former player, a shrewd enterprenuer and philanthropist who makes the African continent proud.
The All-Star Weekend would not be complete without the music and entertainment. Our very own Kenyan, Ivy Awino (stage name DJ Poizon Ivy, and Team DJ for the Dallas Mavericks) will entertain fans on Saturday night during the Celebrity Game.
Poizon Ivy wasr just recently listed in the Forbes ‘30 Under 30’ list. This will be her second time playing at the All-Star Weekend, and she is an inspiration for women of all origins. She is the definition of ‘Breaking Barriers’.
What a time to be African! This NBA All-Star weekend is going to be a celebration of everything honourable - hardwork, diversity, grit, sportsmanship and community. It promises to entertain the masses.