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NBA Africa, Sports

Trailblazers from Nigeria: Homegrown NBA Draft Picks

Celebrate the exceptional talent from Nigeria that has left an indelible mark on the global basketball stage.

  • Toyosi Afolayan
  • 26th July 2023

Nigeria, a country with a rich basketball culture, has produced some exceptional talent that has made its mark on the international stage. In this article, we celebrate the Nigerian-born players who have been drafted into the prestigious National Basketball Association (NBA). 


In this article, BOUNCE  focuses specifically on the Top Five  individuals who were born and raised in Nigeria, highlighting their contributions to the global basketball landscape and the inspiration they provide to aspiring players in their homeland.


Olumide Oyedeji


Olumide Oyedeji holds the distinction of being the first Nigerian player to be drafted into the National Basketball Association (NBA). He was selected as the 42nd overall pick by the Seattle SuperSonics in the 2000 NBA Draft. Oyedeji played as a power forward and center during his career and represented Nigeria in international competitions.



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A post shared by olumideoyedeji (@olumideoyedeji1)


Hakeem Olajuwon


Hakeem Olajuwon is widely regarded as one of the greatest basketball players of all time. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Olajuwon was selected as the first overall pick by the Houston Rockets in the 1984 NBA Draft. He went on to have an illustrious NBA career, winning two NBA championships with the Rockets and earning numerous accolades, including NBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year honors.



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A post shared by Hakeem Abdul Olajuwon (@hakeemolajuwonoffical)


Michael Olowokandi


Michael Olowokandi, born in Lagos, Nigeria, was the first overall pick in the 1998 NBA Draft. Standing at 7 feet tall, Olowokandi played as a center during his NBA career, which spanned from 1998 to 2007. While his professional career didn’t reach the heights of some other Nigerian-born players, he still made a notable impact in the league.



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A post shared by Michael Olowokandi (@michael__olowokandi)


Festus Ezeli


Festus Ezeli, born in Benin City, Nigeria, was selected as the 30th overall pick by the Golden State Warriors in the 2012 NBA Draft. Ezeli played as a center and was part of the Warriors team that won the NBA championship in 2015. Injuries limited his playing time in subsequent seasons, but he made a significant contribution to the Warriors’ success during his time with the team.



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A post shared by Festus Ifeanyi Ezeli 🇳🇬 🇺🇸 (@fezzyfel)

Josh Okogie


Josh Okogie, born in Lagos, Nigeria, was selected as the 20th overall pick by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2018 NBA Draft. Josh has established himself as a promising shooting guard in the NBA and has shown flashes of his potential with his athleticism and defensive abilities. Okogie continues to develop his skills and make his mark in the league.



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A post shared by Josh Okogie (@callme_nonstop)




Udoka Azubuike

Jukius Nwosu

James Nnaji

Precious Achiuwa




The journey of Nigerian-born players making their way to the NBA is a testament to the immense talent and passion for basketball that exists in Nigeria. Olumide Oyedeji, Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Olowokandi, Festus Ezeli, and Josh Okogie have all left their mark on the global basketball landscape, representing their homeland with pride and excellence.


These trailblazers have inspired a new generation of aspiring Nigerian basketball players, showing them that dreams can become a reality with dedication, hard work, and the right opportunities. Their success serves as a beacon of hope and motivation, encouraging young talents to chase their basketball aspirations and pursue their dreams.


As Nigeria continues to cultivate its basketball culture, these homegrown NBA draft picks serve as role models, demonstrating that Nigerian players have the potential to excel at the highest level of the sport. Their achievements have not only made an impact on the court but have also helped raise the profile of Nigerian basketball on the international stage.


The legacy of these Nigerian-born NBA draftees will endure, fueling the ambitions of future generations and contributing to the growth and development of basketball in Nigeria. As the nation continues to produce talented players, the world eagerly awaits the next Nigerian basketball star to emerge and continue the legacy of these remarkable trailblazers.

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