Thunder players spreading basketball to Africa

Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Cole Aldrich are part of Basketball Without Borders, a series of events in South Africa.
By John Rohde Published: August 30, 2012

photo - Oklahoma City's Nick Collison (4) speaks during a press conference at the Integris Health Thunder Development Center in Oklahoma City,  Saturday, June 23, 2012. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City's Nick Collison (4) speaks during a press conference at the Integris Health Thunder Development Center in Oklahoma City, Saturday, June 23, 2012. Photo by Sarah Phipps, The Oklahoman

Collison is fresh off a UNICEF field trip to Kenya and has been documenting his experience with a blog on NBA.com.

“I have an opportunity to travel and see the world and also do a good thing for a lot of kids, so I figure it's a no-brainer … something you don't want to pass up,” Collison said. “People here live entirely differently than a lot of people in our country. From my experience in 2008, it's been really inspirational in how they live, and they can still be happy and do things with their families in difficult living conditions. For me, that's a big part of a why I wanted to come. I wanted to do something positive for other people.”

Ibaka, who on Aug. 18 signed a four-year, $49-million extension with the Thunder, has gained notoriety in Africa with his meteoric rise in the NBA after just three seasons, plus winning a silver medal playing for Spain at the Olympic Games earlier this month.

Ibaka said he hopes his success translates to the people in Johannesburg and in his native Congo.

“They know who I am now,” Ibaka said. “For me to come back, it shows them that anything is possible.”

Sefolosha said BWB is about more than just basketball.

“It's to give them hope,” Sefolosha said. “It's about everything that comes along with life.”

Collison said he often reflects on his 2008 trip, which is why he chose to return.

“Where I grew up and what I always learned about people from this part of the world, you always hear all this vague information about people struggling, (how) people are having a hard time and children are dying of preventable diseases and things like that,” Collison said. “You always hear about that, but it's always vague information from very far away and you try to relate to it. To be able to come by and see it firsthand, I think that's what's most powerful for me. It makes it real. For me, to be able to see someone eye-to-eye and some of these conditions, it's an incredible experience.”