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Kabongo brings world class experience to the Tigers

ALMOST a decade ago, a young Myck Kabongo received a piece of advice that would serve him well to this day. The wise counsel would come from San Antonio Spurs legend, the Big Fundamental Tim Duncan.

While Kabongo welcomed the advice from one of the greatest power forwards to have played the game, the setting where Duncan delivered his words of wisdom was unusual.

Before going into the details of what the message of now-retired Duncan to him was, Kabongo reflected on his experience of a lifetime with the dynastic Spurs.

As an undrafted rookie from the University of Texas, Kabongo, born in Lubumbashi, Democratic Republic of Congo, had a short stint with the Texas-based franchise during the 2013 NBA season.

Myck Kabongo
Myck Kabongo has been a calming figure in the Tigers offence. Pictures: The BTO

Kabongo made the most of his opportunity to learn from the inspirational and often a master of one-liners during interviews, Gregg Popovich (Spurs coach). The Spurs set-up still had Duncan and fellow All-Stars and accomplished players Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

“I was lucky to go to the San Antonio Spurs in my rookie year. I learnt how to be a professional because I was surrounded by hall of fame players. Not a lot of people can say that they learnt from Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. That was the biggest thing for me as a rookie,” said the Cape Town Tigers player via Zoom on Saturday. “There is a saying that you can see what it looks like to be a professional, but there is a professional’s profession. I got to see that at the Spurs. I learnt from the best.”

Kabongo says being under the tutelage of  Olympic gold medal-winning coach Popovich improved his game significantly. 

“I have always had a good basketball IQ, but coach Pop took it to another level. The way he made me read and understand the game is second to none,” said Kabongo, who complimented Popovich’s character. “He is a great human being. He is a selfless individual and that reflects in how the Spurs play basketball. If you watch them play, you will notice how unselfish they are on the court. That also filters down to other players. He has a different and great presence and energy about him.”

Also being in the presence of French point guard Parker and Argentine combo guard Ginobili enhanced Kabongo’s ability as a guard. Despite the language barrier with Ginobili, whom Kabongo rates highly, he learnt by observing the Argentine.

“Manu Ginobili is the best player I have played against one-on-one. He is impossible to guard, and I had to adjust against him because he is such a herky-jerky player. He was not talkative, because he was not that fluent in English. So, I had to learn by watching how he played the game and how was able to adjust the pace,” said the DRC national team player, who bonded better with Parker as they spoke the same language.

“TP and I had a relationship because we spoke French. We bonded because of that. He was a superstar, and here he was, taking the time to talk to me.”


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A post shared by Myck Lukusa Kabongo (@kabongofire)


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A post shared by Myck Lukusa Kabongo (@kabongofire)

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A post shared by Myck Lukusa Kabongo (@kabongofire)


The Spurs player whose words would be impactful to Kabongo were those of legendary power forward Duncan. They were simple words, and they could have come from any Joe from the street, but this was Tim Duncan, a decorated and respected player in the NBA, and the advice he gave carried a lot of weight for Kabongo.

“Timmy was the best. He’d pull me to the side and give me advice every time. The best advice he gave me was, as long I worked hard and treated people the right way, I would have a long career,” said the former NBA G-League player. “Can you imagine? There I was, Tim Duncan next to me in the shower and he says, ‘as long as you work hard and treat people the right way, you will have a long career, kid’. Those words stuck with me, I’ll never forget those words. I cherish moments like those.”

Kabongo, who is in his ninth year as a pro and considered a veteran, is part of the Cape Town Tigers team trying to put South African basketball on the map.

The upstart Tigers are in Cairo for the second season of the Basketball Africa League (BAL) and open their campaign against Nile Conference opponents and Angolan giants Petro Atletico on Sunday night.

Kabongo, who played in the inaugural BAL season last year for Ferroviario de Maputo, says they will not have an easy ride as all their opponents in the Cairo leg of the league will present a similar challenge.

Myck Kabongo
Point guard Myck Kabongo wants to win with the Tigers

“Ah, man! Every game here will be tough. You have to understand that all these teams in this competition have won in their countries or are zonal champions. So, there are no easy games in a league like this,” said Kabongo. “We have to understand that we have to stick to our game plan. Petro are a strong team. They have guys who have been playing together for seven-eight years at the club or the (Angolan) national team. We have been playing with each other for a couple of months. So to be successful, we have to stick to our plan and what the coaches say.”

Upon his arrival to the Tigers during the second game of Elite 16 of the BAL qualifiers in Johannesburg last year, Kabongo made an immediate impact as a floor general.

Kabongo’s ability to up and slow the tempo is a plus for the Tigers camp during their BAL sojourn.

“I’m in my ninth year as a professional. I have experience and have played in some tough places. So, it’s difficult for me to get rattled. I have worked my a** for moments like this, so I don’t feel scared going into a game. I go in confident and settled because I put in the work when no one was watching,” said the well-travelled Kabongo. “As a point guard, I have to make the game easier for my teammates. I also have to make sure they are having fun. When the team has fun, you usually finish on the winning side. That is what I want to do. I want to win!”

Kabongo is not short on confidence, and hopefully, that has rubbed off on his Tigers teammates who cannot afford to freeze on the continental stage.

Time: Sunday, 10 April at 11pm (GMT+2)

*  Fixture: Cape Tigers (South Africa) vs Petro Atletico (Angola)

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