NBA Africa Game 2017 will feature six All-Stars and examples of basketball's international growth

<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/3824/" data-ylk="slk:Luol Deng">Luol Deng</a> and <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/3930/" data-ylk="slk:Chris Paul">Chris Paul</a> were co-MVPs of the first NBA Africa Game, which was won by Team World. (Getty)
Luol Deng and Chris Paul were co-MVPs of the first NBA Africa Game, which was won by Team World. (Getty)

The NBA does not necessarily have a responsibility to spread the game of basketball around the world, but the league’s continued efforts to do just that have been one of the biggest and most colorful feathers in the cap of commissioner Adam Silver. One great example of those efforts is the NBA Africa Game.

The NBA Africa Game originated in 2015, with NBA stars like Chris Paul, the Gasol brothers, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luol Deng taking the court in front of a sold-out crowd at Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg, South Africa. Paul and Deng were named co-MVPs as Team World narrowly beat Team Africa, 101-97. The inaugural game featured four active NBA All-Stars, and players from (or with roots in) 12 different countries.

The game will return to South Africa in 2017, and this year’s contest, the second game of its kind, will feature an even more star-studded group of NBA veterans. There will be six active All-Stars and participants from (or with roots in) 15 different countries: The United States, Germany, Brazil, Latvia, South Sudan, South Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Switzerland, Angola, Senegal, Cameroon, Congo, Tunisia, Nigeria and The Gambia.

On Thursday, the NBA announced the full rosters for the Aug. 5 game:

Team Africa roster

Luol Deng (South Sudan)
Thabo Sefolosha (Switzerland; parent from South Africa)
Bismack Biyombo (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Clint Capela (Switzerland; parents from Angola and Congo)
Gorgui Dieng (Senegal)
Joel Embiid (Cameroon)*
Serge Ibaka (Congo)
Luc Mbah a Moute (Cameroon)
Salah Mejri (Tunisia)
Emmanuel Mudiay (Democratic Republic of the Congo)
Victor Oladipo (parent from Nigeria)
Dennis Schroder (Germany; parent from The Gambia)

*Embiid will be present, but will not play in the game

Team World roster

Dirk Nowitzki (Germany)
Kemba Walker (U.S.)
Leandro Barbosa (Brazil)
Jaylen Brown (U.S.)
Wilson Chandler (U.S.)
DeMarcus Cousins (U.S.)
Andre Drummond (U.S.)
Courtney Lee (U.S.)
Kyle Lowry (U.S.)
CJ McCollum (U.S.)
Kristaps Porzingis (Latvia)

The African roster is much more well-rounded than it was two years ago, when the player most closely resembling a guard was either Antetokounmpo, Deng or Nicolas Batum. This year’s team includes two true point guards, plus Oladipo and Sefolosha.

Paul, the standout from the 2015 game, won’t be back for another run, but Team World has brought in Dirk, Lowry and Porzingis for their NBA Africa Game debuts.

This year’s game will take place at the Ticketpro Dome, which can hold more than 19,000 people. That’s a massive capacity upgrade from Ellis Park Arena, which holds just 6,300 at maximum, and it’s an upgrade the NBA likely hopes will mirror the growth in popularity of the NBA Africa Game.

The game will follow the 15th edition of Basketball Without Borders Africa, an NBA initiative since 2001. It will benefit UNICEF, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and SOS Children’s Villages South Africa.

The NBA’s plan to expand the reach of the game, and of its own product, is in part responsible for the steady increase in international flavor through the league. The NBA’s 30 teams rostered a combined 113 international players from 41 different countries and territories at the beginning of the 2016-17 season. That was a record. It’s also a record that should soon be broken, and broken again, and again, as the sport continues to grow.

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