MEET The Two Nigerians Who Made History In The NBA With The Golden State Warriors

KayCee
By KayCee June 21, 2015 11:56

Two Nigerian nationals, Festus Ifeanyi Ezeli and Andre Iguodala made NBA history on Tuesday night with the Golden State Warriors after they defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers for the 2015 NBA Championship title.

Ezeli (25) who was born to Nigerian parents in Benin City and grew up there came out big in the third quarter of game 6 when the Warriors padded their lead to a comfortable margin.

With season-long starter Andrew Bogut glued to the bench for a second straight game, even with Cleveland looking to hammer Golden State up front by going back to its big line-up, head coach of the Golden State Warriors, Steve Kerr called on Ezeli to help combat 7-foot-1 Timofey Mozgov and 6-9 Tristan Thompson.

Ezeli did more than that. He scored eight of his 10 points in that pivotal third period and may have made some of the club’s most important baskets after replacing Harrison Barnes with 6:10 to go in the quarter.

The 6-11 third-year big man converted a lob dunk on a pass from Draymond Green that gave the Warriors an 11-point lead, 66-55, with 3:25 left in the period, and on the next trip down the floor, slammed home a put-back rebound and was fouled by Mozgov. He converted the free throw for a 69-55 advantage.

At a young age, Ezeli left the city for the United States after completing his secondary school education at the age of 14. He neither played nor understood the game of basketball until he arrived in the states.

EZELI-1-ighodalo

His parents, who now live in Sacramento, the California capital, wanted him to study medicine in one of the Ivy League schools. Instead, he opted to study Biology with a major in Economic on scholarship at the Vanderbilt University after turning down an offer to study at Harvard. He told a local paper that Vanderbilt provided him with the ‘best of both worlds’ allowing him to study and develop his basketball skills.

In 2012, the 6ft-11 centre was drafted into the game. However, unlike Ezeli who doesn’t have much experience in the NBA, his teammate, Andre Iguodala (31) is in his 11th year in the league.

After plying his trade with Philadephia Sixers and Denver Nuggets, Ighodalo joined the Golden State Warriors in the summer of 2014.

He was named the 2015 Finals MVP after inspiring performances which helped his team win three straight games to hand the California-Bay Area side a 4-2 series victory and avoiding Game 7.

Speaking with newsmen, erstwhile coach of the national basketball team, D’Tigers, Sani Ahmed, has said 2015 NBA winner, Festus Ezeli, has shown interest in playing for Nigeria and urged the Nigeria Basketball Federation to expedite efforts to get him.

Ahmed, who led D’Tigers to qualify for the 2015 Afrobasket said that getting Ezeli to join the Nigerian team will greatly boost the morale of the national team players and improve the country’s chances in international tournaments.

He said, “I’m happy that the team that won the NBA title has Nigerians. We need them in D’Tigers. The moves to get NBA players, who are Nigerians to play for the country is still on course. I’ve been in contact with all of them. Ezeli’s agent is also a Nigerian; that is Ugo Udueze of the Islanders. They are always in support of what we are doing.

“Ezeli has already shown interest in playing for Nigeria. He doesn’t need anybody to push him. It will be great if we can make all the arrangements to get him for D’Tigers especially now that he has won the NBA title. His inclusion will really boost the morale of the team.”

However, Ahmed said Iguodala can still change nationality and play for Nigeria if he wants to after the Warriors’ shooting guard chose to play for the US ahead of Nigeria.

He added that getting Ezeli and other Nigerian NBA players to join D’Tigers now depends on the NBBF.

“Right now we have to wait for the NBBF to announce what their plans are before we know what steps to take. It all depends on the NBBF now. You know there is currently no coach for the team,” he said.

Both Ezeli and Ighodalo helped Golden Gate Warriors beat Lebron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers 105-97 to win their first NBA title in 40 years.

They now join NBA Hall of Fame superstar, Hakeem Olajuwon (The Dream) of the Houston Rockets, as the only Nigerians with the NBA Finals ring.

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KayCee
By KayCee June 21, 2015 11:56