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5 Nigerian Basketballers in the NBA Playing Their Hearts Out

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Numerous Nigerian basketballers have joined the National Basketball Association (NBA). Some of them were scouted and moved to play at the college level before joining, and others were born in the United States and got there through the school system. Quite a number of them represent the Nigerian national team. In this article, we list some Nigerian basketballers playing in the NBA.

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Charles Bassey

Nigerian basketballer Charles Bassey played soccer until the age of 12. A basketball coach scouted him and switched to the game. He participated in the Giants of African tournament, where he was named the Most Valuable Player. 

After this, he moved to the United States to develop his career. He played for St. Anthony High School in Louisville, Kentucky. While there, he produced impressive performances.

Bassey averaged 17.1 rebounds, 20.2 points, and 5.9 blocks per game. He then went to Western Kentucky between 2018 and 2021. 

In 2021, Bassey was drafted into the NBA by the Philadelphia 76ers as a second-round 52nd overall pick. In 2022, Bassey moved to the San Antonio Spurs.

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Chimezie Metu

5 Nigerian Basketballers in the NBA Playing Their Hearts Out
Nigerian basketballer Chimezie Metu. Image Source: Instagram licensed under CC BY 2.0

Chimezie joins our list of Nigerian basketballers in the NBA. He was born in California, US and at the age of six, moved to Nigeria with his father. There, he played football but then picked up basketball when he moved back to California. 

He played for his high school and then joined the University of South California in 2015. In 2018, Chimezie was drafted into the NBA by the San Antonio Spurs as a second round, 49th overall pick. Similarly, in 20220, Metu moved to the Sacramento Kings and, in 2023, joined the Phoenix Suns

In 2019, Metu was part of the Nigerian national team in the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

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Giannis Antetokounmpo

5 Nigerian Basketballers in the NBA Playing Their Hearts Out
Giannis playing for the Milwaukee Bucks. Image Source: Instagram licensed under CC BY 2.0

Giannis is one of the most prominent Nigerian basketballers in the NBA. He plays for the Milwaukee Bucks and has been successful throughout his career.

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In 2021, Antetokounmpo became an NBA champion and was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) in the finals. Before that, he was a significant player in the team.

For five consecutive years (2019 -2023), Giannis Antetokounmpo made it into the All-NBA First Team and was the NBA Most Valuable Player in 2019 and 2020. The player started his basketball career in 2011 in the Greek team Filathlitikos. Two years later, the power forward was drafted into the NBA by the Milwaukee Bucks. 

Giannis says he feels both Nigerian and Greek, the country of his birth. His parents are Nigerian and immigrated to Greece. He holds both the Greek and Nigerian citizenship.

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Precious Achiuwa

Precious represents the Toronto Raptors. He joined the team in 2021 from the Miami Heat. Achiuwa was drafted into the NBA in 2020 as a first-round 20th pick by the Miami Heat but was traded a year later. 

Precious was born in Nigeria but moved to the United States with his family. He played football but switched to basketball. He started his career in high school and played for different teams, including:

  • The Bronx.
  • St. Benedict’s Prep.
  • Newark, New Jersey.
  • Monteverde Academy.
  • Monteverde, Florida.    

At the college level, Achiuwa played for Memphis and joined the NBA.

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Udoka Azubuike

5 Nigerian Basketballers in the NBA Playing Their Hearts Out
Udoka Azubuike playing for the Utah Jazz. Image Source: Instagram licensed under CC BY 2.0

Udoka was born in Nigeria and moved to the United States at the age of 13. He was scouted by Basketball Without Borders recruiters who gave him a scholarship to pursue the game in the United States. He began his career in high school and in 2016, he joined the University of Kansas

In 2020, Udoka was drafted into the NBA by the Utah Jazz as a first-round 27th overall pick. He played there until 2023 when he moved to the Phoenix Suns. The center cum power forward received recognition in tournaments he’s played. They include:

  • NABC Defensive Player of the Year (2020)
  • First-team All-Big 12 (2020)
  • Consensus second-team All-American (2020)
  • Big 12 Player of the Year (2020)

There are many Nigerian basketballers in the NBA, and more will keep joining. Nigeria has proved to be a bedrock of basketball talent and one of the best African countries in basketball.  

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