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.
Community work truly has no borders for the Thunder.
Teammates Thabo Sefolosha, Serge Ibaka, Nick Collison and Cole Aldrich frequently exchanged laughter Thursday as they shared viewpoints about their latest community project.
Their voices could be heard through the static of teleconference call from Johannesburg, South Africa, seven hours and nearly 9,200 miles away from where they routinely make appearances in the greater Oklahoma City area.
From Thursday through Sunday, NBA Cares will hold the 10th edition of Basketball Without Borders in Africa, an outreach program with a contingent of current NBA and WNBA players, coaches and past players focused on grassroots basketball development, education, health and wellness. One highlight will be the Saturday dedication of the NBA Cares Legacy Project, a refurbished sports complex in Alex Township, one of the largest urban neighborhoods in South Africa.
Seven active NBA players are participating in this year's BWB, and four are with the Thunder.
The OKC organization has been deeply involved in community service since it arrived in the summer of 2008. Each player does a minimum of 12 community appearances every season, with a team average of 14 per player. With more than 200 appearances annually, the Thunder has ranked in the top 5 among NBA teams in community service the last three seasons.
Sefolosha was born in Switzerland to a Swiss mother and South African father and is no stranger to the country. Ibaka was born in Brazzaville in the Republic of Congo, roughly 1,700 miles northwest of Johannesburg, and was making his first visit. Collison participated in the same BWB camp in 2008, while Aldrich is making his first trip to Africa, which included a safari in Kenya beforehand.
Explaining how the Thunder wound up with four volunteers for the project, Sefolosha said: “We talked about it during the year. It made sense for everybody and everybody was excited to do it.”
Sefolosha then took a playful swipe at Aldrich. “To be honest, Cole, I really don't know what he's doing here,” Sefolosha said as his teammates erupted in laughter.