It is becoming increasingly glaring that Nigerians are a very dominant people when it comes to the world of sports. One need not look too deep to see our footprint all over the biggest sporting leagues in the world. And the most impressive part of it, is that we don’t just participate, we dominate.
To contextualize Nigeria’s pre-eminence in sports globally, you have to take into account how many current world champions are of Nigerian decent. Let’s start from the world of combat sports.
Anthony Joshua holds 3 of the 4 world heavyweight boxing titles of the world. For Mixed Martial Arts, particularly Ultimate Fighting Champions, Israel Adesanya stands as the undisputed UFC Middleweight Champion, while Usman Kamaru holds the UFC Welterweight title. Also they both hold impressive professional fighting records with Israel at 20-0-0, and Kamaru at 17-1-0.
In soccer names like Alex Iwobi, Wilfred Ndidi, Kelechi Iheanacho,Victor Osimhen, and Ola Aina are proof of how well Nigerians are fairing in the soccer ecosystem.
And in the world of the National Basketball Association NBA, the biggest basketball league in the world, Giannis Antetokounmpo, a greek born Nigerian, with both Igbo and Yoruba lineage is currently the Most Valuable Player MVP in the league and the Defensive Player of the Year DPOY. He also is a two time MVP having won it last year, making him 1 of the 12 players in history to win back to back MVPS. He is also 1 of 3 players in the history of the sports to win both the MVP and the DPOY in the same year.
With this is only natural that the future of Nigerian native athletes is bright, especially considering that Nigerians are beginning to make excellence look very routine. The NBA draft class of 2020, had its own fair share of young Nigerian atheletes initiated into the league. They are; Precious Achiuwa Udoka Azubuike, Jordan Nwora, Desmond Bane, Isaac Okoro, Onyeka Okongwu, Daniel Oturu, and Zeke Nnaji.
Both Precious and Udoka were born and raised in Nigeria, before migrating to America, to play basketball. Udoka who was drafted to the Utah Jazz as the 27th overall pick is a benefactor of the basketball beyond borders program, a program that affords young athletes a sports scholarship in America.
Of the 60 picks this year, Precious was drafted to the Miami Heats as the 20th overall pick. Zeke went drafted 22nd overall to the Denver Nuggets. Isaac was drafted 5th overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Onyeka Okongwu to the Atlanta Hawks at 6th overall pick. Desmond Bane was selected by the Boston Celtics, but was later traded to the Memphis Grizzlies as the 30th pick. Jordan to the Milwaukee Bucks to join the MVP and fellow Nigerian Giannis as the 45th overall pick and Daniel was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves as the 33rd pick, but was drafted to the Los Angeles Clippers.
No doubt these stars would strive to compete at the highest level, and their country of origin as a Nigerian this time works in their favor as we have living breathing proof that Nigerians can perform at the highest level given the condition outside the abysmal state of sports in within the country.