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Editorials, NBA Africa, Sports

NBA: Mike Brown & Udoka creating a pathway for Nigerian Coaches

Their success has inspired and opened doors for other Nigerian coaches to pursue opportunities in the NBA.

  • Toyosi Afolayan
  • 22nd May 2023

Basketball has a long and interesting history in Nigeria. The sport was introduced to the country in the 1950s by American missionaries and has since grown in popularity, with Nigeria becoming a major basketball-playing nation in Africa.


In the 1960s and 1970s, basketball began to gain traction in Nigeria, with schools and universities across the country introducing the sport to their curricula. The first Nigerian basketball association, the Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF), was established in 1964.


Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Nigeria continued to develop its basketball program, with the men’s national team making its debut at the African Basketball Championship in 1985. The team went on to win the tournament in 1997 and has since established itself as one of the top basketball teams in Africa.


In recent years, Nigeria’s basketball program has continued to grow and flourish, with the men’s and women’s teams both qualifying for the 2016 (Rio de Janeiro)  and 2020 (Tokyo) Summer Olympics. Both the men’s and women’s teams have made history by defeating traditional basketball powerhouse, in a friendly game before the Olympics.



In addition to the success of the national teams, Nigeria has also produced several talented basketball players who have gone on to play professionally in the United States and Europe. Some of the most notable Nigerian-born players include Hakeem Olajuwon, a Hall of Fame center who won two NBA championships with the Houston Rockets, and Al-Farouq Aminu, a small forward who has played for several NBA teams.


Overall, basketball has played an important role in Nigeria’s sporting history, and the country continues to produce talented players and teams who are making their mark on the international stage.




Nigeria’s history in the NBA (National Basketball Association) dates back to the 1980s when Nigerian basketball players started making their way to the United States to play college basketball. In 1984, Nigerian-American Hakeem Olajuwon was drafted by the Houston Rockets as the first overall pick, marking a significant milestone for Nigerian basketball in the NBA.


Olumide Oyedeji is also one of the early Nigerian players to make it to the NBA, debuting with the Seattle SuperSonics in 2000. He later played for the Orlando Magic, and the Sacramento Kings, appearing in a total of 66 NBA games throughout his career.


Since then, Nigeria has produced several other NBA players, including Obinna Ekezie, Festus Ezeli, and Al-Farouq Aminu. The current crop of Nigerian players in the NBA includes Josh Okogie, Precious Achiuwa, Onyeka Okongwu, and Chimezie Metu, among others.


In 2012, the Nigerian national basketball team, known as the D’Tigers, made their first-ever appearance in the Olympic Games held in London. Although they did not make it past the group stage, their qualification for the tournament was a significant achievement for Nigerian basketball.



In recent years, there has been a renewed interest and investment in basketball in Nigeria. The establishment of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) in 2019, a joint venture between the NBA and FIBA Africa, has provided a platform for African teams and players, including Nigeria, to showcase their talent on a continental stage. This, coupled with the increasing number of Nigerian players in the NBA, has put Nigerian basketball on the map and opened up opportunities for young Nigerian players to pursue basketball careers.




Nigerian players are increasingly looking forward to coaching in the NBA. With the growing popularity of basketball in Nigeria and the increasing number of Nigerian players in the NBA, more and more Nigerian players are aspiring to become coaches in the league.


Several Nigerian basketball players have expressed an interest in coaching in the future. Here are a few examples:


  • Ike Diogu: Diogu is a former NBA player who has represented Nigeria in international competitions. He has expressed an interest in coaching and has served as a player-coach for his team in China.


  • Olumide Oyedeji: Oyedeji is a retired Nigerian basketball player who had a successful career playing in Europe. He has stated that he wants to become a coach and has already started working towards that goal by earning coaching certifications.


  • Michael Gbinije: Gbinije is a Nigerian-American basketball player who has played in the NBA and internationally. He has expressed an interest in coaching and has already gained some coaching experience working with a youth team in the United States.


These are just a few examples of Nigerian basketball players who are interested in coaching. 



The success of Ime Udoka and Mike Brown in the NBA is helping to pave the way for Nigerian coaches in the league. Udoka, who is of Nigerian descent, spent nearly a decade as an assistant coach, before becoming the head coach of the Boston Celtics in 2021. The 45-year-old led Celtics to a 51–31 record, finishing as the second seed in the Eastern Conference. The Celtics won the Eastern Conference title and made their first NBA Finals appearance since 2010


Mike Brown who is also of Nigerian descent is the head coach for the Sacramento Kings of the National Basketball Association. Brown was previously the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Los Angeles Lakers, and most recently an assistant coach for the Golden State Warriors. The 53-year-old was named 2022/23 NBA coach of the year.


 Their success has inspired and opened doors for other Nigerian coaches to pursue opportunities in the NBA. With the growing popularity of Nigerian coaches in the NBA, more players will likely look to coaching as a way to stay involved in the sport after their playing careers are over.


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