Over the years, the NBA has found a number of talents from all corners of the world. The league has generated a great amount of interest from all sorts of different countries over the years, but it has particularly gained popularity in many African countries, largely thanks to great cultural interest in the sport.
Love for basketball has grown as many parts of the continent continue to become more modern. This is especially the case in South Africa as well as some growing countries in the Sub-Saharan region of the continent. These countries are not only forming their own basketball leagues but also competing in the Summer Olympics with their own teams featuring local players. Countries like Angola, Egypt and Senegal have particularly been competing in international games as well as many tournaments within the continent of Africa.
Today, the NBA has become more accessible in Africa than ever before. There are 47 Sub-Saharan territories that now get access to NBA games through SuperSport, a South African sports network. The NBA signed a deal with SuperSport in August, 2013 and will air up to three NBA games per week, plus the All-Star game, playoffs and finals in 2013-14.
The NBA’s reach has allowed more people to take notice of the game in Africa. However, Africa has already been producing a number of NBA players over the years. Since Sudan’s Manute Bol came into the league in 1985, dozens of players have come from Africa to play in North America. These include thirteen players from Nigeria and nine from Senegal. The Basketball Without Borders program in the NBA is looking to potentially get more people from Africa to come into the league.
Today there are many active NBA players who are originally from Africa and many of them are making high-end salaries for their work on the court. This list takes a look at 10 of the highest-earning African-born players to play in the NBA.
10. Mamadou N’Diaye – Career Earning: $3.1 Million
Mamadou N’Diaye played for five years in the NBA from 2000 to 2005. He spent three years with the Toronto Raptors but only got played in 69 games. His status as a first round draft pick still helped him to secure a $737,000 salary in his first year with Toronto and eventually $3.2 million over the course of his career. N’Diaye is originally from Senegal and is currently an assistant coach with Coastal Carolina University.
9. Manute Bol – Career Earning: $5.9 Million
Manute Bol was originally from Sudan and is tied for being the tallest player in NBA history at 7 feet 7 inches. His height and his skill at blocking shots made him a favourite among Washington Bullets and Golden State Warriors fans. He only made more than $1 million in three seasons while in the NBA, but his effort in playing for ten years from 1985 to 1995 secures him a spot on this list.
8. Bismack Biyombo – Career Earnings: $8.8 Million
Bismack Biyombo is from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and was a first round pick for the Sacramento Kings in 2011. He was traded to the Charlotte Bobcats shortly thereafter and today has earned $8.8 million from the team. Biyombo is expected to earn close to $4 million per year in the near future with the Bobcats as he has become the top blocker on the team.
7. Luc Mbah a Moute – Career Earnings: $16.7 Million
Luc Mbah a Moute played with the Milwaukee Bucks for five years before heading to the Sacramento Kings in a trade in 2013. He has earned $16.7 million in his career including $5 million in 2011, a massive improvement from the $757,000 he got in his rookie year in 2008. He was born in Cameroon as the son of a village chief and is even the prince of the village of Bia Messe, a town near the capital of Yaounde.
6. Hasheem Thabeet – Career Earnings: $16.8 Million
Hasheem Thabeet is from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and has been a journeyman of sorts as he’s played for four different teams since 2009. He is currently in his second year with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Thabeet has earned $16.8 million over the course of his career but it is uncertain what his paycheck will look like in the coming years. The $1.25 million that he is expected to earn in 2014-15 is not guaranteed, meaning that he could be waived by the Thunder if they see fit.
5. Michael Olowokandi – Career Earnings: $37.9 Million
Michael Olowokandi was born in Nigeria and moved as a child to England where he attended Brunel University before heading to the University of the Pacific. As the top pick of the 1998 draft, he earned $2.7 million with the Los Angeles Clippers. He earned $37.9 million in his nine years in the NBA as he moved from LA to Minnesota to Boston during his successful if not somewhat brief career.
4. DeSagana Diop – Career Earnings: $47 Million
DeSagana Diop played for twelve seasons in the NBA after coming to the States from Senegal. He never attended college as he went to the Oak Hill Academy in Virginia after moving to the country and was named a McDonald’s All-American in 2001. Injuries and general inefficiency caused him to be a benchwarmer for the final years of his career with the Charlotte Bobcats, but he still got $7.3 million in 2012 en route to $47 million for his whole career.
3. Luol Deng – Career Earnings: $81.6 Million
Luol Deng was born in a part of Sudan that is now known as South Sudan. His family left for England after receiving public asylum when he was a child. Deng went to Duke University and has been playing for the Chicago Bulls since 2004. He will earn $14.3 million during the 2013-14 season. Deng has been making at least $10 million a season with the Bulls since 2009.
2. Hakeem Olajuwon – Career Earnings: $110 Million
Hakeem Olajuwon was born and raised in Nigeria before moving to the United States in the early 1980s to play college ball for Houston. He spent seventeen seasons with the Houston Rockets, winning two NBA titles and recording 3,830 blocks, the most in NBA history. He also had close to 27,000 points in his career. Olajuwon earned $16.7 million in his last year with the Rockets in 2000, bringing him to $110 million in his whole career.
1. Dikembe Mutombo – Career Earnings: $143.6 Million
Dikembe Mutombo moved from the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 1988 to attend college at Georgetown. Although he did not speak any English, he was contacted by coach John Thompson to play for the Hoyas and the rest is history. Mutombo made $143.6 million in his eighteen years in the NBA, mostly with Atlanta, Denver and Houston. He is second on the NBA’s all-time list of most blocks with 3,289.
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