Ime Udoka: Nigerian-American NBA Basketball Coach and Former Player

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Ime Udoka is one of the black coaches in the National Basketball Association (NBA). He’s worked for several teams as an assistant and head coach. Udoka was an active player in the league for 12 years, representing numerous teams. In this post, we look back on his career and how he’s fairing as a coach. 

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Ime Udoka’s Early Career

Udoka is of Nigerian-American background. His father is from Nigeria, from the Akwa Ibom tribe and his late mother was from Illinois. Her sister Mfon Udoka played in the WNBA and is currently the assistant coach for Nigeria’s women’s national team.

The former player represented his high school Jefferson, and three universities:

  • Utah State Eastern
  • San Francisco 
  • Portland State. 

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Professional Career

Highlights of the Ime Udoka’s game. Video Credit: BigPatrys15

After his high school career, the small forward went undrafted in 2000. He joined a basketball team in North Dakota called Fargo-Moorhead Beez. He played for them for a year before moving to Independiente.

His entry into the NBA came through an NBA Development team, North Charleston Lowgators, after which he moved to the Adirondack Wildcats. In 2002, he returned to Charleston, which drafted him as a 39th overall pick.

From there, he played for multiple teams:

Before he retired, Ime Udoka played in Spain for the UCAM Murcia. Udoka scored 1,635 points in the NBA, 926 rebounds and 308 assists.

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Coaching Career

After he ended his active playing career, Ime Udoka joined the San Antonio Spurs as an assistant coach, working under acclaimed head coach Gregg Popovich. He won his first championship with the team. 

After seven years, he moved to the Philadelphia 76ers in the same position, working under Brett Brown. After a season, the Nigerian-American moved to the Brooklyn Nets.

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Boston Celtics

After a series of assistant roles, Udoka landed his first coaching job at the Boston Celtics in 2021. He was the fifth man of African heritage to coach the team. He took them to their first NBA finals since 2010, losing to the Golden State Warriors.

The following year, Udoka was suspended after he breached the organization’s policy on employee relationships. Although the company thought the relationship was consensual, the female staffer involved accused him of inappropriate comments. 

Udoka apologized but never resigned. His assistant coach took over and was later named the head coach bringing Udoka’s time at the team to an end. 

It didn’t take long before he landed another role. Currently, Ime Udoka is the head coach of the Houston Rockets.

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Ime Udoka is one of the coaches who didn’t have the biggest playing career. As it looks, he’s already won a championship and helped the Boston Celtics turn around their fortunes. Despite the unceremonious ending, Udoka has shown signs of being a top manager. 

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