Mind-boggling LeBron stats and aesthetically-pleasing Curry jumpers are almost a norm at this point. And while still great in their own right, they we’ve seen pretty much the same stuff from the same suspects over the past couples of years.
But a shift is happening.
Philly center Joel Embiid became the first player in NBA history with at least 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocks, and seven assists in a game in 2017. And became the first Sixer to score 40 since Allen Iverson had 45 on Nov. 27, 2006.
We’re talking 7’1″ 250 lbs bouncing out to hit three’s, executing euro steps and dream shaking defenders to sleep.
Absolute Highlight Factory at Staples Center. Embiid drops a double dream shake and shimmy for 41 points. pic.twitter.com/9HXopm58h2
— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) November 16, 2017
Not to be outdone, there is a player with an equally unique name in Giannis Antetokounmpo who — after becoming only the fifth player to lead their team in points, rebounds, and assists last year for the Milwaukee Bucks — is leading the league in scoring at 30 points and 10 rebounds a game.
His game is unique as well. With a 7’3″ wingspan, the 6’11” forward is just as much a havoc on the defensive end as he is offensively. Making him a force to be reckoned with. It also makes sense as to why Kobe challenged him to win win MVP this season.
GIANNIS. The reach on that second block, man. pic.twitter.com/PHOzTD1Cus
— 16 Wins A Ring (@16WinsARing) November 16, 2017
What we are witnessing, with both Antetokounmpo and Embiid playing at an elite level, is what it looks like when African athletes show interest in basketball.
Antetokounmpo is from Greece but his parents are Nigerian immigrants and Embiid was born in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Although 74.3 percent of all NBA players are black, only 22.3 percent are international, meaning an even smaller percentage are African.
Just this summer the NBA had it’s second annual Africa Game in Johannesburg.
While there for an inaugural game, there was a dual objective to help build awareness of the sport. In that vein, the players that went participated in NBA Cares events in and around Johannesburg as well as helping out at the 15th Basketball Without Borders Africa camp.
Efforts like these are why were privileged to see the Antetokounmpo and Embiid perform feats of freakish athleticism, pulling of plays that dudes their size have no business doing.
This is good for the NBA because it adds business to both American and African markets and bridges relations between the two places.
We’ve had the likes of Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo, Luol Deng, and others, but nothing of this caliber in a long time.
As ‘The Greek Freak’ and ‘The Process’ continue to develop, there’s no reason why they cannot one day become the face of the league. For a continent with as few player representatives in the NBA as Africa, it’s clear they have talent to offer.
Only time will tell how far these dudes can go.