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NBA stars gather for first game in Africa

31 July 2015, 19:14

Johannesburg - Basketball stars including Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers and Luol Deng of Miami Heat warmed up Friday for the NBA's first game in Africa, as the sport looks to expand into the continent.

The sold-out exhibition game at the Ellis Park arena in Johannesburg on Saturday will pit a team with African links captained by Deng against a "world team" captained by Paul.

"I think what makes it so special is that it's the first game over here," Paul told AFP.

"We want to make sure we give the fans a great game."

Five-time NBA Champion Gregg Popovich will coach Team Africa, which includes Deng, who was born in South Sudan, Luc Mbah a Moute from Cameroon, Senegalese Gorgui Dieng and Frenchman Boris Diaw, whose father is from Senegal.

"The first thing they need is infrastructure. Sports infrastructure needs to be put in place, basketball courts that are modern, and they also need balls and all that," said Diaw during training.

He said he was confident that development was starting to take place in Africa, despite challenges.

"I see it in Senegal and lots of things are done in other countries too," he said.

Team World will feature Bradley Beal of Washington Wizards, Pau Gasol of Chicago Bulls and Evan Turner of Boston Celtics, with Brooklyn Nets coach Lionel Hollins in charge.

The teams have been involved in charity work ahead of the clash, including fitness sessions with children and a basketball clinic in a township outside Johannesburg.

The game of basketball is steadily gaining popularity in Africa, with more than 35 players from the continent featured on NBA rosters since Hakeem Olajuwon was drafted in 1984.

The NBA opened an office in Johannesburg in 2010.

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