African Blogtable writers give insights on NBA Xmas battles

THE African Blogtable brings together some of the top basketball minds from across the continent to answer some of the league’s most pressing questions ahead of the 2023-24 NBA season.

The NBA launched their Christmas Day campaign, “The Gift of Game”, celebrating the timeless tradition and magic of holiday hoops which will this year see five games for the 16th consecutive season on December 25.

Games will reach fans across the world in more than 200 countries and territories including Africa. The 76th edition of the NBA on Christmas Day will see Golden State Milwaukee Bucks vs. New York Knicks, Warriors vs. Denver Nuggets, Boston Celtics vs. L.A. Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers vs. Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks vs. Phoenix Suns.

All five games will air live on ESPN, Canal + and NBA League Pass, while SABC (South Africa), ZAP (Angola/Mozambique), NTV (Kenya), Afrosport TV, NTA, Silverbird, TVC and ITV (Nigeria) and Clouds (Tanzania) will air a showdown between Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors and Nikola Jokić and the Denver Nuggets at 21:30 CAT.

  • In the spirit of the Christmas Day brand campaign, The Gift of Game, what gift has basketball granted you?
  • Which Christmas Day matchups are you looking forward to?
NBA Xmas battles
LeBron James will lead the Lakers against Jayson Tatum’s Celtics. Pictures: Getty Images

Manyehlisa Lehohla & Sindiswa Mabunda, The Big Tip Off (South Africa)

Manyehlisa Lehohla: Basketball gifted me the dream of starting a media platform, The Big Tip Off.  For the last five years, The Big Tip Off has been one of the leading contributors of basketball content on the African continent. We have featured NBA Academy Africa and great servants of African basketball like Thierry Kita Matungulu and Emmanuel Mavomo. One of our most significant achievements is covering the Basketball Africa League’s (BAL) Nile Conference in Cairo, Egypt, earlier in the year. We have also started providing up-and-coming content producers a chance to exhibit their writing skills. And as operations grow, we hope to pass that gift on to others.

Sindiswa Mabunda: I’m excited about the stacked Christmas Day schedule, which is always a great way to end a day spent with family. I particularly look forward to the third match-up between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics.  Despite the Celtics having a better record and the best defensive rating in the league, their lack of depth will disappoint them down the stretch. The Lakers, on the other hand, have more scoring options beyond the arc and the ability to attack both sides of the ball. Led by Anthony Davis and James, who keeps raising the bar in his 21st season, the Lakers have been playing phenomenal basketball. When they’re in sync, they are almost unstoppable.

Alex Isaboke, Capital FM (Kenya)

Basketball has gifted me a lot especially in building up to this festive season: seeing the game I love open an NBA Africa office in my country Kenya was a delight. I will be able to see the game develop and more talent from the country have an opportunity to be discovered especially as the interest of the game continues to grow.

Secondly, the NBA In-Season Tournament was the best thing to happen to any basketball lover, that meant more games to enjoy and eventually seeing LeBron cement his ‘King’ status by adding another title!

A definite clash to watch out for is the Golden State Warriors vs Denver Nuggets. Both teams considered as the powerhouses of the West, it will be interesting to see who will help their team to glory. Will it be Steph Curry for the Warriors or reigning MVP Nikola Jokic?  It will be a closely contested affair, but I will go with the Nuggets for the win because they are a young team; they will have home-court advantage and with Jokic’s performance expected to be a game-changer coupled by sharpshooter Jamal Murray – it will be good see them extend their recent dominance over the Warriors.

 

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Tosin Abayomi, Pulse (Nigeria)

Basketball has provided a unique opportunity to dream. Growing up I took an interest in basketball in my teenage years which has fueled my desire as a journalist to be versatile. The excitement basketball has provided me over the years has contributed to my passion for staying up late at night to watch the NBA and I won’t have it any other way.

The Lakers won the In-Season Tournament but have since suffered a dip in form.  Facing off against the Boston Celtics, 17-time NBA Champions, and long-term rivals, LeBron James has an opportunity to galvanize his team to make a statement against the title favorites on Christmas Day.

The Phoenix Suns vs Dallas Mavericks match-up provides an incredible spark of excitement with the offensive talents on display. The rivalry between Devin Booker and Luka Doncic makes this a tantalizing affair to end the Christmas Day slate. The Suns team has not lived up to the hype this season. But they have an opportunity to remind the world why they are among the favorites in the West against a resurgent Mavs.

Damas Sikuwabo, The New Times (Rwanda)

At a tender age, sports played a crucial role in my daily activities. Basketball has given me a whole career.  I have had the chance to learn from the best, I have also had a chance to connect with some of the legends of the sport.

In a span of two years, I have had the opportunity to travel more than 10 times from Rwanda to other countries in the region and beyond.  I have also won myself several accolades because of covering basketball.

I am looking forward to the Celtics and Lakers game because both clubs compete at a high level and share a long-standing history. Equally important, both teams are potential contenders in the East and West, respectively.

NBA Xmas battles
Joel Embiid has been phenomenal for the 76ers and he will be expected to lead past Jimmy Butler and the heat.

Mor Bassine Niang, Record (Senegal)

Basketball gifts me every day- it is a game that provides a lot of emotion. It’s always a pleasure to follow the games, Christmas or not. The greatest gift is to fully experience what you love. Basketball is Santa Claus every day. And that explains the love fans have for the sport. Personally, I am spoiled to have experienced for the past 15 years the atmosphere of the arenas in Senegal, Africa and the world. I can cite, as an example, the Basketball Africa League which offers its share of joy and great atmosphere.

I believe that the Boston – Lakers and Philadelphia 76ers – Miami Heat games will be exciting matchups.  These two games will keep basketball fans in suspense given the quality of the squads. The Heat are in good shape and will be up against the 76ers who are 19-8. The Lakers have just come off winning the first NBA In-Season Tournament and the Celtics lead the East 21-6.  Exciting player matchups to watch out for are Jimmy Butler vs Joel Embiid and Jayson Tatum vs LeBron James. These are duels which I believe will light up the floor.

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