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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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African Blogtable writers share insights on NBA IST final

THE African Blogtable has brought together some of the top minds in basketball from across the continent to answer some of the most pressing questions during the 2023-24 NBA season.

The race to the NBA Cup is finally coming to an end. The first NBA In-Season Tournament (IST) final tips off on December 10 (Sunday) with a battle between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Indiana Pacers (03:30 a.m. CAT on NBA League Pass).

In a thrilling week of IST games, the last showdown takes place in Las Vegas.

The IST Final will feature two players from Africa, the Pacers’ Oscar Tshiebwe from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Lakers’ Rui Hachimura (Japan) with ties to Benin.

  • The NBA In-Season Tournament (IST) champions will be crowned this weekend. What are your predictions going into the final?
  • Your breakout player of the tournament?

Sindiswa Mabunda, The Big Tip Off (South Africa)

Indiana Pacers combo-guard Tyrese Haliburton is my breakout player of the IST.  Haliburton has been phenomenal, making pivotal plays in the opening game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. He also led a second-half comeback against the Boston Celtics, the second-best defensive team in the league. Haliburton’s playmaking abilities shone in the quarterfinals. He secured his first career triple-double while helping the Pacers secure a huge win over Boston.

He puts his teammates in positions that change the game’s momentum, showing how he utilizes the depth of the young team. The Pacers have put the league on notice and Haliburton is a rising star on one of the biggest stages the NBA has to offer.

 

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Alex Isaboke, Capital FM (Kenya)

Even though the Lakers aren’t firing on all cylinders to start the 2023-24 season, this is their chance to stamp their authority by winning an early title.

Los Angeles’ proximity to Las Vegas, will give their fans will also be key in inspiring them to victory.  Apart from LeBron James, another player to watch is forward Anthony Davis, who is athletic and a good ball handler. He also shone in the quarter-finals against the Suns.

My breakout player of the tournament is Tyrese Haliburton, who is propelling the NBA’s best offence with the Indiana Pacers. Despite not having playoff experience, he has managed to handle pressure and played a key role in the Pacers’ undefeated run. His stats have been phenomenal as Haliburton has been the only player in the NBA averaging at least 25 points and 11 assists a night this season.

Damas Sikawubo, The New Times (Rwanda)

I am betting on the Los Angeles Lakers. Powered by LeBron James, the Lakers remain unbeaten, and I don’t think the Indiana Pacers will change that.

My prediction for the Lakers to win is not just attributed to LeBron, who, in my view, had a strong performance in the inaugural tournament, but the whole group.

The Lakers earned the top seed in the West by going unbeaten in the group stage of the inaugural tournament, and should Darvin Ham’s boys work on closing out games, the title could head to California.

Austin Reaves stands out as my breakout player, as for stars Anthony Davis and LeBron James, they will do their thing in the final.

James has been making and breaking records for over two decades, but the fun part of the In-Season Tournament is its newness and he has a chance to set records that other players will one day aspire to break.

Through five games, he ranks ninth in the tournament in total points (131), fourth in assists (41), fifth in steals (nine) and 16th in rebounds (40).

Austin Reaves has to show up to the party, for such aspirations to come to reality.

Photo: (credit NBAE/Getty Images)

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