The National Basketball Association (NBA) is a North American professional basketball league with about 30 teams. As the premier men’s professional basketball league in the world, the NBA has players from various countries including Nigeria. From Chimezie Metu to Giannis Antetokounmpo, here are five Nigerian basketballers killing it in the NBA:
Born in Los Angeles, California, Metu spent the first years of his life in his birthplace before moving to Nigeria with his father at the age of six. He then lived in his home country for the following six years and played football at the time. He took up basketball when he moved back to California, playing the sport in high school (known as secondary school here in Nigeria). He continued playing basketball in college and made a name for himself with highlight blocks and big-time dunks which got drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2018 NBA draft. Since making his NBA debut, Metu has signed with the Sacramento Kings, getting a multi-year deal in 2021 after making 28 appearances. Away from the Kings, Metu was included in the Nigerian final roster for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup. He has also competed in the Summer Olympic Games for Nigeria.
The 22-year old was born in Port Harcourt to Nigerian parents of Igbo descent. Like many boys in the area, he grew up playing football until his focus shifted to basketball after he attended a Giants of Africa basketball camp. He quickly fell in love with the game and soon moved to the United States with the help of his brother, God’s gift Achiuwa, who was playing basketball at St. John’s University in Queens, New York. In the U.S, Achiuwa played basketball for St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in Newark, New Jersey which had a nationally ranked basketball program. An impressive freshman season earned him AAC Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year honours; it also helped Achiuwa achieve his NBA dream as the 20th overall by the Miami Heat in the 2020 Draft. He signed a four-year contract for over $12.5 million from 2023 to 2024. Things came full circle for him after he got traded to the Toronto Raptors, currently led by Masai Ujiri, who is also the Giants of Africa founder. Achiuwa has played with the Nigerian National team, competing for his home country in the Summer Olympics.
Aminu (The Chief) and his fellow Olympian brother, Alade, are princes. Their parents, Aboubakar Aminu and Anjirlic Aminu, are descendants of Nigerian kings. His career started after he got drafted No. 8 overall by the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2010 NBA Draft. Aminu has since played for the New Orleans Pelicans, Dallas Mavericks, Portland Trail Blazers, Orlando Magic, and Chicago Bulls. Tearing his meniscus on his right knee in December of 2019 kept him off the court. He was signed with the Orlando Magic at the time of his injury, which required an arthroscopic procedure and caused him to miss 27 games at the start of the season. He returned last year against the Portland Trailblazers. Away from the NBA, Aminu represents the Nigerian national basketball team-D’Tigers. He played for Nigeria at the London 2012 Olympics. He was also part of the team that won the country’s first-ever FIBA Africa Championship (AfroBasket) in Tunisia in 2015 by defeating Angola 74–65. His performance got him named as one of the All-Star Five of the 2015 Afrobasket.
He was born on September 9, 1998, in Buffalo, New York to an American mother and a Nigerian father Alexander Nwora, who was a basketball coach. Naturally, Jordan fell in love with the game, developing his basketball skills with his father’s help. Nwora played basketball at Amherst Central High School in the 2013–2014 season, before transferring to The Park School of Buffalo for two seasons. He made his NBA debut in 2020 after getting selected with the 45th overall pick by the Milwaukee Bucks. He suffered an ankle injury in 2021 which did not stop him from winning the NBA Championship with the Bucks after the team defeated the Phoenix Suns in the 2021 NBA Finals. Nwora also plays with the Nigeria men’s national basketball team. He made history with his father when they became the first Nigerian Son and Father to represent a Nigerian national team side at the same time during the 2019 FIBA World Cup qualifier in Lagos, Nigeria. His father was the head coach at the time. Nwora became the highest-scoring player for Nigeria in history, breaking Ike Diogu’s record of 31 points during the same qualifier. The following year, he played with the home team at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
This NBA star was born on December 6, 1994, in Athens, Greece to Nigerian parents. Antetokounmpo’s career started when he began playing basketball for the youth teams of Filathlitikos in Athens. By 2011, he was playing for the club’s senior team before entering the 2013 NBA draft, where he was selected 15th overall and currently plays for Milwaukee BucksBucks. He led the Bucks in all five major statistical categories in 2016–17 and became the first player in NBA history to finish a regular season in the top 20 in all five statistics of total points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. On September 19, 2016, Antetokounmpo agreed to a four-year, $100 million contract extension with the Rising Bucks and quickly gained MVP recognition (2018–2020). Starting from the 2018–19 season, Antetokounmpo and the Bucks achieved a period of sustained team success. He made it to the NBA’s list of highest-paid players for 2019 with a total earning of $43.2 million. Antetokounmpo’s dual nationality combined with his size, speed and ball-handling skills earned him the nickname “Greek Freak”. He re-signed with the Bucks on December 15, 2020, coming to terms on a 5-year, $228 million extension, the largest in league history. At the 2021 All-Star Game, he played on the team captained by James and scored 35 points on a perfect 16-of-16 shooting from the field to lead the team to a 170–150 win and became the first non-American to win the All-Star MVP. Antetokounmpo became a minority owner of the Milwaukee Brewers of Major League Baseball on August 20, 2021.