The appointment of Ime Udoka as the head coach of NBA side, Boston Celtics, has opened a new vista for Nigerians in the NBA.
Nigeria has moved from getting first round picks, NBA Legends/Champions, Front-Office management to a spot on the touchline.
A worthy evolution to behold for Nigerian basketball and the NBA, as it takes the relationship to new levels.
Born and raised in the USA, It was Nigeria that Ime Udoka chose to represent at the national team level.
Ime’s Nigerian Roots Runs Deep
Ime’s Nigerian roots runs deep as he played and captained Nigeria just like his sister, Mfon Udoka.
Ime Udoka led Nigeria’s second FIBA World Cup participation as captain in Sendai Japan.
Despite facing defending champions, Serbia & Montenegro Nigeria shocked them 82-75 on Day 1.
The team fought Germany led by Dirk Nowitzki to the last seconds before losing a by a point, 77-78.
Ime missed a lay-up and another Nigerian playing for Germany, Okulaja grabbed the rebound to help the Germans.
Ime Udoka: A Leader and Motivator
In 2011, Ime left a lasting impression in the mind of national team coach, Sani Ahmed.
Speaking on Ime’s leadership skills, Coach Sani witnessed it first hand in the way he makes others better.
“Ime Udoka has been a gentleman.
As captain of the team when we went to Madagascar in 2011, He was very good.
Ime had team control, he brings all the players together to have unity.
He is a leader, motivating everybody to move, he was a very good defensive player and was not necessary looking to score.
A particular incident stands out for the former national team and Kano Pillars Basketball coach.
“There was a time when Nda Abu took some 3 pointers, he gave him $50 to keep shooting well”
He was a forerunner (alongside others) who came before the golden generation of Nigerian basketball winning two bronze medals at the AfroBasket.
After retiring from the NBA, Ime Udoka switched to coaching by teaming up with Gregg popovich at the San Antonio Spurs.
It was Spurs that his coaching ability was polished while working with top NBA stars like Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
After his adventure as Popovich’s right-hand man, Udoka gained league wide reputation for his abilities.
Before the appointment, Udoka reportedly made a good impression on the Celtics’ superstars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.
They both, along with Marcus Smart, reportedly endorsed Udoka’s appointment.
Now that he is stepping into the head coach role of 17 times NBA champions, a new ceiling has been shattered for Nigeria and black minorities in the game.