Cameroon’s Mbah a Moute: Basketball becoming ‘second sport’ in Africa

Luc Richard Mbah a Moute of the Los Angeles Clippers, believes basketball is on the rise in his home continent.
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute in action for the Clippers against the Nets on Tuesday night. Kathy Willens / AP Photo / November 29, 2016
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute in action for the Clippers against the Nets on Tuesday night. Kathy Willens / AP Photo / November 29, 2016

The Los Angeles Clippers’ Luc Richard Mbah a Moute says basketball is on its way to being “that second sport in Africa” and that he hopes to continue to be an influence in its growth.

Cameroon’s Mbah a Moute, a 30-year-old NBA veteran in his ninth season, is a prince in his home village Bia Messe, outside the capital Yaounde. He has run hoops camps in his native country, which budding Philadelphia 76ers star Joel Embiid even once participated in.

A third Cameroonian, Pascal Siakam, is a rookie with the Toronto Raptors, and in all there are as many as 16 Africans in the NBA this season, depending on how one counts the likes of Australia’s Thon Maker and Britain’s Luol Deng, both born in what is now South Sudan, or Michael Gbinije and Al Farouq Aminu, Americans who represent Nigeria internationally.

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Either way, the continent is increasingly well-represented at basketball’s highest level.

“It’s growing. I think it’s still not where it needs to be, it’s still not where soccer is, but it’s growing, which is a good thing,” Mbah a Moute said before Tuesday night’s double overtime thriller against the Brooklyn Nets, which the Clippers lost 127-122.

“Back then it was soccer and all the other sports. Now I think basketball is stepping up to become that second sport in Africa.

“So it’s good to see the game growing the way it has.”

The NBA’s Basketball Without Borders camps, of which Mbah a Moute was once a part, have been an instrumental tool in attempts to spread the game. In addition to Embiid, players like Senegal’s Gorgui Dieng (Minnesota Timberwolves), DR Congo’s Christian Eyenga (former Cleveland Cavaliers and Los Angeles Lakers), Nigeria’s Solomon Alabi (former Toronto Raptors) and Senegal’s Hamady N’Diaye (former Washington Wizards and Sacramento Kings) have been involved.

Speaking about his past participation in the NBA’s African outreach programmes and helping grow the sport specifically in Cameroon, he said:

“It means a lot. For me, I owe everything to that country. So when I get a chance to go back and impact the kids, whether it’s Basketball without Borders or Jr NBA stuff that I do back home, it’s a great opportunity.

“You know those kids, we don’t have that many people to look up to, so when they get a chance to interact with us, we can be there and tell them a word or two about life, it’s always a good opportunity.

Mbah a Moute has been a central figure in the Clippers’ starting five this year as a defensive anchor, and even with Tuesday night’s loss they still own the Western Conference’s third-best record, at 14-5.

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Published: November 30, 2016 04:00 AM

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