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The basketball team from Nigeria in Tokyo 2020

Kevin Durant had never won in 39 games of the USA basketball team. On Saturday night in Las Vegas, Nigeria beat the USA with a score of 90-87. This showed how competitive the Tokyo 2020 Games can be and also said a lot about how much progress Nigeria has made.

The moment Kevin Durant won his first game with the USA basketball team was also the moment Nigerians finally got their first victory against them.

From record defeat to stunning victory for Nigeria

In the nine years since the record points at the 2012 Olympics, Nigerian basketball has shown steady growth. Ahead of the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, the USA won a two-team exhibition meeting, scoring 44 points. After this first African victory in 2021, USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said, “Nigeria has come a long way in its basketball.”

Nigeria’s record of never winning on US soil is now history.

The Nigerian national team has submitted its final squad for the Tokyo Olympics, and if you’re looking at basketball players with NBA experience, there are more Nigerians headed to Tokyo than from other countries combined.

Nigeria’s squad

Precious Achivua, Caleb Agada, Obi Emegano, Chimesi Metu, Jordan Nwora, Jalil Okafor, Josh Okogie, Stan Okoye, Kay Z Okpala, Miye Oni, Ekpe Udoh, Gabe Vincent.

Nigeria, led by Mike Brown, will play in Group B alongside Australia, Italy and Germany.

Sustainability of strategy in question

Eight players were selected in the 2020 NBA Draft from Nigeria. They join 19 of Nigerian descent already playing in the league. This is a big change because many Africans usually play centerbacks or big men. But now there are many defenders and forwards from Nigeria too, and they have even begun to play internationally.

Scouting the American diaspora is a good way to improve countries’ basketball team. Some people are worried that this could keep other people from playing and practicing as well. But some people think that scouting American players will stop in a few years.

“Right now, it is fashionable for Nigerian Americans to play for Nigeria,” he said. “In the future, the enthusiasm may wane.”

“We have to have a good programme at home, which will be complemented by players from the US,” he added. “Otherwise there’s no point in having a Nigerian federation at home.”

“We promise to work hard and do our best. There will be pressure because we are the only African country in this competition. Every game will be difficult, but we won’t give up.” If the D’Tigers do well in Tokyo this summer, then these concerns should stop.

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