What D’Tigers run at Afrobasket is teaching us…


In a few hours, the Nigeria basketball team will face hosts Tunisia in the Final game of the 2017 Men Afrobasket Championship. The almost rag-tag collection of individuals that left these shores a few days ago, have surpassed all our collective expectations. Nobody can claim they saw this coming; any positive feel about this team was based purely on hope. But D’Tigers have triumphed…yep, they are not Champions yet, and it does not matter whether they win or lose. These guys are already winners. And there are lessons for all of us, and our sports in their story…

The first lesson simply underlines what the victory of the Women team at the Afrobasket earlier in the year taught us: Talent works the same way everywhere, wherever it may reside. The Nigeria Basketball Federation decided to make the teams’ one third home-based and two-thirds foreign based. They also took two extra players from the home league as developmental. Has anybody noticed any deficiency not found in any other team? The TEAM is playing well, and that is what matters. It brings us to the second lesson…

Talent is good, but it’s always about the team. The guys that won the last edition, God bless them all, are very talented, no doubt. And we could have used their services. But when the chips are down, you need a team. It has been proven that hard work beats talent that doesn’t work hard. Get the right guys who are willing to work together, and you might be onto a good thing. These crop of D’Tigers crossed the T’s and dotted the I’s. It wasn’t pretty initially, but they looked really good in the Quarter and Semi-Finals!

That also leads us to an oft-ignored fact: the Nigerian spirit is strong, when we focus on the important things. And it has shown in our sports over and again: the Nigerian soccer team that won the first ever continental honour at the All Africa Games in 1973, the Eagles team that won the first ever Nations Cup medal in 1976, the Nigerian teams to several Paralympics, the list goes on. Most Nigerian teams that go on assignment as ‘orphans’, return with honours; because adversity makes them focus on what is important. The same is repeated in other areas of life.

Before Bryant Mbamalu, there was Chamberlain Oguchi and before him, we had Derrick Obasohan. Simply put, there are always heroes waiting to emerge. The saying that “nature abhors a vacuum” is brought sharply into focus by the emergence of Mbamalu, the Point Guard who is wowing Africa. Oguchi was massive for Nigeria two years ago, Mbamalu has been awesome, as has been Ike Nwamu. New faces we, maybe, would never have seen if the class of 2015 had showed up.

Then of course, there is Ike Diogu. A patriotic Nigerian who missed out on the action in 2015 because he was injured. He rejoiced with his team mates then, but has been the mainstay of the team now. A lesson in letting go of the past, because the future is always there…   

Photo Courtesy: FIBA.COM

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