Nigeria Celebrates First Olympic Basketball Berth

Posted July 12th, 2012 at 3:12 pm (UTC-4)

I received an email from Abel Udoekene, a loyal Sonny Side of Sports listener in Lagos, Nigeria, celebrating the achievement of The Tigers, Nigeria’s national men’s basketball team. “It gives me great joy,” wrote Abel, “to congratulate the Nigerian basketball team for qualifying for the first time for the Olympics, they are the pride of Africa.” Nigerian pride swelled after the Tigers topped the Dominican Republic, 88-73, at the FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament in Venezuela, to book their first Olympic ticket. Check out the joyous reactions of the Nigerian players in this video:

Forward-center Ike Diogu, who had game-high totals of 25 points and 10 rebounds in the victory over the Dominican Republic, is described as the heart and soul of the Nigerian team. The 28-year-old Diogu was born in Buffalo, New York, and he’s part of a core group of Tigers who have both American and Nigerian citizenship. The 2.06 meter tall (6’9″) and 113-kilogram (250 lbs.) Diogu starred at

Nigerian Olympic basketball player Ike Diogu

Arizona State University and since turning professional, he’s played for seven National Basketball Association clubs as well as teams in China and Puerto Rico.

“The group we have this year is not like any group we’ve ever had,” says Diogu. “When we assembled, the first thing coach said was, ‘let’s make history.’ But it’s not just a one year thing. We want to

Nigerian Olympic coach Ayo Bakare

have sustainable success and that’s what we’re working towards.”

Head coach Ayo Bakare says the team is also working towards changing the perceptions of the many sports fans in Nigeria.  He says the country’s focus is on football, but the team’s success in making its maiden Olympic trip has Nigerian fans turning their attention to basketball and cheering for the Tigers.

Nigeria will tip off its Olympic campaign July 29th against African rival Tunisia, another team making its Olympic debut. Both African squads will face daunting challenges in London. Their first round group also includes the gold medal favorite USA, featuring LeBron James, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant. The Americans, led by Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski, are the defending world and Olympic champions. Also in the group is 2004 Olympic champion Argentina, two-time Olympic silver medalist France and three-time Olympic bronze medalist Lithuania.


Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

6 responses to “Nigeria Celebrates First Olympic Basketball Berth”

  1. yemi says:

    I noticed that they are mostly American based. Not to knock what they have achieved but I feel like it those take away a little bit from the victory.

  2. uche says:


    Practically the entire french, brazilian and spanish teams are “american based”.
    So, where are our boys supposed to be based?? Are there any pro leagues in Nigeria?

    Abeg, comot my friend!


  3. yemi says:

    @Uche: Yes there are pro leagues in Nigeria, do your research. There are teams sponsored by Union bank, coca cola, Globacom etc. If you really look into it, these guys were probably hand picked. This is the same reason our soccer team is suffering. Other teams suffer the same faith because the American market is so huge and popular, thanks also to the media. I could go on, but I’ll just leave it there.

  4. Olatunde says:

    @Uche, thumps up for you! You are on point, most players of other national based in US and we all know the fact that no other nation have a robust basketball league like America. There fore, we should be proud of our boys and what they have achieved for our beloved country Nigeria. The fact is what has Nigeria local pro leagues have been able to achieve ? I guess the answer is obvious. Let all unite and support Tiger dream team as they conquer the world at London 2012.

  5. SORUNMU SEYI .A says:

    Great D’Tigers, thanks for making us smile again after the loss of our football team that were suppose to be at the Olympics, we are all behind you, I will be supporting the team from home with all my hearth, go for Gold, you can do it, you are our “Dream team”.

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Sonny Side of Sports is an energetic and action-packed look at both world and African sports, broadcast on radio, TV and the Internet. Since the show’s creation in 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

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