NBA – Can Hasheem Thabeet please stand up?

Yes, some of you might wonder why we’re picking on a non-Kenyan to profile on our blog, well he’s the first East African ever to play in the most prestigious basketball league in the world – the NBA! Thabeet also happens to be among the few Africans ever to play in the NBA Playoffs ( others being Hakeem ‘The Dream’ Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo, D.J Mbenga in that list). We hope he inspires the next generation of basketballers from Africa more so East Africa which has seen little action in the US-base league.

H. Thabeet waits for ball – image courtesy of

Thabeet’s team Oklahoma City Thunder (OKC) led by current MVP Kevin Durant are currently in the Western Conference Finals playing last year’s Conference winners San Antonio Spurs (SAS). As of doing this blog-post, OKC was trailing SAS  0-2 games in a best-of-7 series. They also lost fellow African Congolese-born Serge Ibaka to injury going into the Finals.

NOTE: Serge Ibaka did somehow make a recovery on his injury and made it back to the team, inspiring them to a win over San Antonio Spurs in Game 3 on Sunday.

Is this time for Thabeet to step up his game?

Having been part of the bench for OKC, he can become a contributor to the franchise surviving and even challenging for the NBA Playoffs Finals. But playing against veterans such as Tim Duncan in the paint and his supporting cast of Parker, Ginobili amond others won’t be an easy ride. He can use his height to his advantage and also get the team to play the ball off their main player Kevin Durant (who needs to step up and show why he’s the league’s MVP…).
His regular season stats don’t look too favourable with 23 Games played, average of 1.2 points per game and 1.7 rebounds per game ( from What is worrying though for Thabeet is his manager’s lack of faith in him especially in transition and protecting the rim. He might need to reinvent himself in the few minutes he might get playing as the Thunder look to surge back into the series.

Till then, twa kutakia kila la heri, ndugu!

In Related News:
2-time NBA Playoffs winner Hakeem Olajuwon was recently named an NBA Goodwill Ambassador for Africa. His achievements and accomplishments will come in handy as the NBA tries to reach to a wider African audience, both for its broadcasts and talent search. Dreams do come true indeed…

Can this be the year of Rebirth of Kenya’s Basketball?

Many a times a sport in this country undergoes serious degeneration and gets swallowed in the mediocrity of the administration of our general affairs as a State. It is true we can continue moaning about this and sing to the birds till heaven come but nothing changes.

Pres Obam

It is with this in mind that some of the administrators in the game of Basketball have decided to change the perception of the game and give it a slow but gradual ‘rise from the ashes’. This process started sometime last year when the Kenya Basketball Federation experimented with the Friday Basketball games which became a favourite for those fans who were looking for alternatives in sports entertainment.

Though the Friday games eventually started attracting less crowds ( the idea was being disputed between the federation and a local entertainment company the latter which wanted to own the rights and larger parts of the revenue and not entirely for the interests of the game), this idea can be explored if fine-tuned and well-thought out.

Coming into the 2013 season, the Federation has been in talks and arrangements in place to screen live games from one or two venues as may be decided by the pay TV channels. This is one big shot in the arm that would go a long way in changing the way the viewed in the country. TV does wonders to a sport which is able to organise and attract favourable crowds and audience both ‘online and offline’. It would also attract some form of revenues in advertising and promotions which the Federation can use to rebrand and gave the game a new face.

Talking of online, there is also a new magazine developed by basketball enthusiasts who also felt it is about time to talk about the game in its entirety, challenges and all. Titled “Inside B’Ball” it seeks to reach a growing number of sports fans who consumer their dose of sports online. It will also give the game of basketball a wider reach that it has been yearning for. It also good for the Federation to work closely with such entrepreneurs who will offer commercial assistance on ways to generate ideas and revenues for the game.

It’s now for Kenya Basketball Federation to start engaging corporate firms and the Government where necessary to ensure that they get better infrastructure across the country – venues, training areas and exhibition areas. This can start with a refurbishment of the Nyayo Gymnasium – the place is need of a serious paint job, better lighting, sound systems and a scoreboard. The court and its surroundings also need a touch and markings to ensure it fits to world standards. It was embarrassing in 2010 when the venue hosted the Street Basketball exhibition games and there was a leak on the roofs.

The only venue which fits the bill is Kasarani multi-purpose gymnasium which is slightly away from town and might not be able to attract crowds as yet due to its proximity and accessibility. Other venues such as the Makande gymnasium in Mombasa would need expansion and better markings to ensure better experience for players and fans alike. Kisumu and Nakuru and any other major towns should look to developing indoor venues for such sports and this will offer alternative forms of entertainment and engagement with the youth.

College Basketball in

Another mention should be the Zuku sponsorship of the Universities and Colleges Basketball League (UCBL). Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, this league was very competitive and saw 2-3 teams from qualify for the national Premier League. This should be followed through by Kenya Basketball Federation to see that they separate college and university teams from the semi-professional and corporate-sponsored teams. This way it will be easier to have a purely professional league and one that has learning institutions. The two would serve a complimentary role with one being a feeder to the other. We have seen that work successfully in more developed leagues such as the NBA and the NCCA College Basketball  in the United States.

Finally, NBA is making in-roads into Africa and it’s about time that Kenya got a player or two representing a team from this famed league. There is a liasion office in South Africa closely watching what activities Kenyan basketball is undertaking. There are also the equally well-developed European Leagues in countries like Spain, Greece to name but a few which can come and recruit our talent and offer exposure to our players to the international game.

Can this be the rebirth that Kenyan Basketball has been yearning for?

Racism & Sport – It don’t matter if you’re Black or White!

A good friend of mine sometime back made the observation that many African dialects have no word for racism. Yet in this time and age, we still talk about race and the colour of our skins and its becoming the ‘smell’ that just won’t get off many a sporting disciplines across the world.
Just so that we get our footing on what we are talking about in the 2011/12 EPL season, two incidences occurred where players were alleged racially slurred by their fellow players on the pitch. One of the cases ended up with Suarez- a Uruguayan player was banned for 8 games for the club and though he did manage to get support from some of his colleagues, the club management ended up with egg on the face for mishandling such a sensitive subject. The player he abused is Frenchman Patrick Evra.
In the other case features a more complicated scenario and the players involved are from the same country. England’s John Terry is said to have made a racial remark to Anton Ferdinand during an EPL clash between their two clubs. In subsequent games, EPL officials even had to cancel the ceremonial handshakes before the start of the matches to avoid players’ bad blood before play.

The other reason this case is more interesting is the little matter of Rio Ferdinand’s non-selection to the English squad that is preparing for Euro 2012 that starts in the twin Eastern Europe countries of Poland and Ukraine. Rio is the elder brother to Anton Ferdinand and word has it that the brothers have not been particularly amused by the English national team management of the whole affair.

Euro 2012
Talking of Euro 2012, reports have been coming from the media (coincidentally British-owned BBC through its Panorama programme aired an episode on racism and anti-Semitic violence) on football fans in the Poland and Ukraine – co-hosts of 2012. Though both countries’ football officials have been quick to make denials and add that they have put measures in place to avoid such incidences.
What was of concern though was UEFA’s top official’s nonchalant comments about racism and what to do about it. Mr. Michel Platini an honourable player back in his time has sought to play down the claims too and says he would hope officials do something about it if it does occur. It is sad that UEFA has not suggested any other stringent measures to deal with racial slurs.

In other sports, Tiger Woods last year had a bitter fall-out with his caddie who ended up going for the race-card which was a little uncalled for…more like punching a person when they’re already down…Remember the final disgrace that greeted Zinedine Zidane’s departure from football, after alleged abuse from one Marco Materrazzi ? There are other dishonourable mentions that we would quote but can’t for the disgrace they bring to sport.


  • First if sports associations are to be more stringent and stamp hard on believed miscreants, this would serve as a deterrent to the any intended acts. Imposition of fines, suspension of players/coaches and clubs alike are some of the suggestions. 
  • Second, quick resolution of the said case would also make it  less controversial. Look at a case like John Terry’s, dragging on for over 3 months is way beyond a good threshold of punishing or mitigating against the aggrieved parties.
  • Third, if fans are found to be liable to such abuses on and off the pitch, bans from the venues, media bans for the clubs and such like measures will ensure that they think twice before mimicking monkeys and throwing banana peels on the pitch. Video evidence should be considered when 
  • Fourth, fans and players alike need to find other ways of taunting each other. Racial slurs and such like antics don’t belong to this age. 
  • Fifth, players of African origin have been and will continue playing in the different sporting disciplines. What’s   more, non-traditional sports such as swimming, gymnastics and others will gradually see more entrants and thus appeal to a wider world audience than is already happening. We know what happened to golf when Tiger Woods became number one and also Lewis Hamilton breaking the ‘race’ barrier in Formula One motorsport.

Racism kept in check

Sports are the one universal currency that unites us in many ways. Sporting events will always be graced by winners and losers and most often than not, it will not be because of the racial inclinations. The success of some of the biggest leagues in the world is largely due to the fact that they have integrated every person. Look at the NBA, American Baseball, tennis among others. Need we say anything more? ..and to paraphrase what some wise person said it sometime ago, why can’t we all get along?

SportsKenya’s Qs & As: Hannelie Bekker – MD Wananchi Programming

In the first of our new segment for our discerning readers, we feature a Q&A session with MD – Wananchi Programming Hannelie Bekker on their huge sports investment in the Zuku SlamFest 2012 for the game of basketball among other developments at Zuku TV. Here are some of the highlights of that session;   
SportsKenya: Hi and thanks for this opportunity.   
Hannelie Bekker: Thanks for the opportunity too and welcome to the SlamFest ride 🙂  
Hannelie Bekker – MD Wananchi Group
SK: Zuku SlamFest 2012. How did this idea come about? Give us the background of why basketball and not any other sport. 
HB: Our analysis of the market showed that while
basketball is loved and played on school, university and community level, and
brands like the NBA command enormous respect and admiration, the sport is not
championed in a substantial or sustained way by any broadcaster. From case
studies all around the world we know that broadcast plays a huge role in
building up sporting codes, and so we embraced this as a great opportunity to
do just that. 
SK: What is the rationale behind the tournament? 
HB:  We spent some time with Vision21 last year, exploring opportunities in
regional sports. Steve Othoro, with his longstanding, extensive network in the
regional and international basketball world, proposed the idea of a regional
basketball tournament, something he had been mulling over since his return to
Kenya. We then developed the idea together, and the further we got the more
attractive it looked! We see it as a great platform to showcase the basketball
talent in the region, to create a high standard of competition, to raise the
standard of local sports production for television and, above all, to create a
hugely entertaining and compelling experience for the audience. 
SK: There have been many interests in sports events in Kenya in the last few years, including the Safari Sevens, the Safari Rally, Kenya Golf Open to name but a few. Which other sporting disciplines is Wananchi (Zuku) looking to get into in the short, medium or longer term? 
HB: It would be unwise of us to reveal too
many of our plans too soon! 
SK: What of local, regional or continental interests? 
HB: It could be any of these; however, I think it is
clear already that greater East Africa as a region is really important to
us; it’s where we are based, our “home”, so to speak, and we are
invested in its growth and success. 
SK: What are your thoughts on sports and investments by media into the same? 
HB:  Every
media business has to make strategic decisions about what it invests in – and
of course there are always constraints, especially around sports, which is
expensive to stage & shoot. I think that where the right alliances are
formed the combination of a sporting code, a broadcaster and potentially also
business (in the form of sponsorship) is a really powerful one, win-win for
Zuku SlamFest 2012 Launch – Africa NBA VP Amadou Gallo Foll greets Richard Bell – CEO Wananchi Group
SK: Sports organisations in Kenya have not exploited or leveraged their sports with the media, what would you advise them?
HB: That the
media is absolutely crucial in creating and maintaining a profile for sports,
sporting codes and sports people, and strong working relationships between
sports organisations and the media are mutually beneficial, AND benefit the
public – even better, if makes fans out of them.
SK: Going further afield on the international sports scene, the English Premier League has opened up bids for screening of their games for the 2013/14 season. Any hopes that Wananchi Group (Zuku) would be part of the bidding process?
HB: No comment on that for now… 
SK: What are the 3 things that media consumers DO NOT KNOW about Zuku?  
HB:  1) That Zuku
is the fastest growing pay-tv platform in East Africa;
2)That apart
from very many third party channels we also have 7 own, Zuku-branded channels,
that are managed right here in Nairobi; and
3)That we
are the only triple play provider on the African continent!
SK: What issues would you wish addressed to making investments in media and related infrastructure in Kenya more profitable and lucrative for new players? 
HB: It is a
well-publicised fact that we (Wananchi) think that the pay-tv landscape is
insufficiently competitive. 
SK: Shall Zuku screen the 2012 Olympic Games from London?
HB: We do not
have the rights to the live broadcast, however, viewers can look forward to
excellent highlights, updates and round-ups, both on BBC World (who will be
pulling out all the stops in their hometown!) and Zuku Sports.
SK: What can sports enthusiasts and consumers expect from Zuku Sports in the next 12 months?
HB: Athletics
lovers are in for a treat, with the Diamond League (live) starting in the next
couple of days and running through September, and promising excellent
performances by Kenyan and global athletes. We will also carry live broadcasts
of a few marathons (Prague, Stockholm & Beijing); the npower Championships
are hotting up, with the finals in mid-May; we’re beefing up our mixed martial
arts presence and have just signed some interesting live boxing rights (details
to follow
); we’ll broadcast 7 NBA play-off games, the wrap-up of the CopaLibertadores – and much more.
SK: Final words?
HB: We would
love to hear from you. Follow us on Twitter (@ZukuOfficial), friend us on
Facebook (Zuku Official) – we are keen to hear what you think about Zuku, Zuku
Sports, Slamfest, or anything else you have on your minds.
And see
you at Kasarani for Slamfest 2012!
{ Much appreciation to Liz Owuoche – SilverBullet PR for facilitating this interview}

Kenya Basketball Federation Elections – Let the will of the People prevail

One of Kenya’s lacklustre sports bodies the Kenya Basketball Federation is scheduled to have its elections sometime later this month. Coming from a forgettable tenure will be the current chair one Mr. Paul Otula who doubles up as a principal of a leading national school.
Along with other officials Vice-Chair Henry Shihemi another school administrator, Vitalis Gode and Joseph Amoko, this group of officials have seen a steady decline in the sport since coming into office 4 years ago.
While many of the sports bodies collect this and that accolade at the annual gala awards organised across the country, the Federation has not been able to put forward a show to win any accolade or have a similar award system for its very best.

Poor Show
While some may say that there have been slight improvements thanks to the Friday Night Basketball games, much remains to be seen on how it has improved the players’ and indeed the game’s lot.
The concept of weekend night games is itself a noble one though KBF has not acted upon it and owned it fully resulting in more entertainment than basketball core values being upheld.
Away from this, the Kenya Premier League which is the highest level of play of the game has not seen any competitiveness and the play-offs have continued to attract the same old teams for the longest time. Also heavy on the toll is the lack of quality sides promoted from lower rungs of the Nairobi Basketball Association ( aptly known as NBA).
Basketball has also not been able to attract any major sponsor be it for the overall league or for some of the tournaments held across the country. While the efforts of its Marketing wing ( which coincidentally works on an ad hoc basis and is not fully empowered by the Federation). In fact one of the largest failings of the current team in office is the lack of commercial foretaste for the game’s development.

A lot of attention is played to the high school and universities leagues which are more or less sustained by extra-curricular funds paid by the students attending those institutions, so no plus for revenue for KBF. A lot of talent is wasted here and this could be moved to the clubs and teams playing at the provincial and national leagues.
Affiliations to international bodies such as AIBA, FIBA have not been taken advantage of and this has seen little or no investment in the local game.
Last year’s participation of the ladies team at the All-Africa Games was riddled with controversy after some players being dropped and others not being paid their allowances most of which had been released by the GoK. Parliamentary Committee on Sports is currently questioning the Maputo All-Africa Games Kenyan top brass officials on this and other controversies. 

With the upcoming elections, delegates will need to consider potential officials with the following;

  • Commercialisation – for the longest time, we have sung this song about sports not being an amateur thing anymore and the need to commercialise it. Be it through single-sourced sponsors or partnerships with leading corporates, any sport CANNOT and WILL NOT survive without added revenues. Coca-Cola Kenya has made entreaties through the Spriteball tournaments, work something out that will deliver a win-win for both brands.
  • Media appreciation – we have seen what the media can do to such sports disciplines as football, rugby and cricket locally. Though not fully exploited, there is marked difference and the games are all the better for it. Cultivate a healthy relationship with the media and you shall live to see the fruits. We have seen the Nigerian Basketball Federation games screened on DSTv, why can’t we have the same from Kenya next?
  • Full-time officials – no offense to the current officials but if they were full time officials running the sport, there would be more attention paid to it. The comforts of the other jobs make it impossible to deliver on your mandate.
  • Revamp the League – while there seems to be a semblance of a National League, the reality is far from it. If you look carefully, 80% of the teams are originally from Nairobi, with 1-2 from Mombasa and one maybe from Kisumu. With the country having 47 counties in the new disposition, change the lower rung leagues to have teams from at least half of these counties which would then qualify for the national league.
  • Better Use of Affiliation – it saddens to hear that one of African Basketball officials is a Kenyan yet we have not enjoyed much from the continental front. While it may not be his mandate to favour where he comes from, Kenyan officials can at least make an effort and challenge them to engage with the sport here.  Same goes for FIBA.

Another concern is the use of delegates’ method. This is one of Kenya’s and indeed many a sports bodies weakness in electing top officials. We all know of how the delegates are put up in some nice location and ‘gifts’ exchanged before the D-day when they go to rubber-stump the ‘chosen ones’. We hope this is not the case and that the will of the people who love and dedicate their efforts to the growth of the game.

{Disclaimer: While we may have named the top officials in this post, our task is not to abuse or seek to tarnish their person in any way. The critique is purely on their mandate for the game of basketball in Kenya}

Sports & Social Media:- Whys & Wherefores Part I

This week we start publishing some articles from one of the moderators and contributors to this blog. It has been a long time coming and a bit of arm-twisting here and there. Richard is currently one of the writers for Marketing Africa magazine where he contributes for the sports marketing column. Here’s an article on Sports, Social Media and Digital Platforms;

Champions League
The UEFA Champions League 2011 and the whole world is glued to their screens; flat, HD, projector or otherwise. Its kick-off and the hallowed pitch that is Wembley Stadium is buzzing as is the streams of news coming through major channels be they sports or cable news ones.
Even ‘louder’ is the buzz created in the social media circles of Twitter, Facebook and among others. The first goal is scored by Pedro, the whole game now went into overdrive and the social networks were red-hot.

(Image courtesy of

For anyone not watching the game live, a second-by-second update was running on Twitter and this came through in positive comments about the favoured team, barbs and jibes thrown at the losing team and faltering players along with histories around players and teams.
Gone are the days that we had to wait for the television and radio updates to know the highlights and scores of a game.

Shaq Attack
A few days later, one of sports easily recognisable figures, Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal nicknamed ‘Shaq’, ‘The Big Daddy’, ‘Diesel’, to use but a few of the many names announced his retirement via YouTube and instantly the news was trending in Twitter and other social media platforms. Perfect way to leave the basketball world!

(Image from

Yes, sport has slowly and is now synonymous with social media. We have seen many spoofs or what you might call product endorsements done using short clip videos posted on YouTube and Facebook and these links tweeted and retweeted by brand followers, ambassadors and admirers.
Even at a local level, sports disciplines such as football and rugby have started appreciating the use of this platform. Talk of the Kenya Premier League and the various club fans and sports media enthusiasts will tell you which club is playing where and the fans in attendance, their cheer songs and other enticing offers.
These technological developments are slowly helping us maintain and establish new connections and reconnect with those we know or knew from previous engagements. The connections too are not restricted to individuals but include companies, brands, and for the sake of our discussion, clubs, players and relating sources.

Converse not Command
Social media tools are becoming integral tools of communication and this is favoured channel for most if not all sports participants. The demographics show us the numbers of those using the platforms are the ages between 18-30 years. The platforms had initially swung in favour of the PC but are slowly tilting towards the mobile telephony thanks again to this age group.
The main bane though as is usually the case for new technology, how successful it is in implementation will be from understanding it. Be it an individual or team start by developing a proper strategy that forms part of a larger marketing strategy.
Remember social media is about creating conversation, not one-way or one-sided communication from the brand, individual or team. It should not be a simple posting of updates and news but a long-term and continuous process that could enable you to get feedback from your fans and the wider sporting and non-sporting audience.

One Millionth Man
NBA – the US professional basketball league teams have been able to utilise these social media platforms to make for very interesting interactions with their fan base. For example, one of its biggest players (quite literally too and the new gentle ‘Superman’) Dwight Howard playing for the franchise Orlando Magic has perfected this.

(Image courtesy of
From communicating about his daily engagements, he also pushes for the brands he endorses and acknowledged his 1 millionth follower with an all-expenses paid trip to Orlando for a game and hang-time with the rest of the team stars. (As of the time of going to Press, he had over 2 million followers on this @DwightHoward, one million more than his team @Orlando_Magic)
One must remember that sporting events, sports personalities and teams as well as news around sports has made the growth of social media platforms explode in the last 3-5 years. Major events from the 2008 Beijing Olympics to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa all made use of social media and were able to keep vibrant conversation going about the events.
Sample this, the nuisance and widely controversial vuvuzela had an iPhone App which became the number 1 app on iTunes in 50 countries in June 2010. Nike with its ‘Write the Future’ World Cup advert had over 19 million views on YouTube.
As sports enthusiasts hunger for fodder for more and more about their favoured teams or individuals there is definitely a need and demand created and these teams and individuals have to oblige albeit trying to maintain as much professionalism and true personality as they would in real life.

{Part II coming soon…}

Kenya Basketball dribbles Friday Games as Celebrities light up Basketball Night

Last weekend at the Nyayo National Stadium – Basketball Gym, Nairobians were treated to another of the Friday Basketball Games that Kenya Basketball Federation has been holding since the 2011 season started. Working with the Code Red DJ – under its CodeRed Basketball tag and majorly assisted by one Peter Kiganya, the games had the added flavour of a curtain-raiser game of what was billed as the Celebrities v/s Referees game; who included Jalang’o, Big Ted, DJ Stylez, Shaffie Weru,Nonini, Daddy Owen among others up against an old but hard-fighting REFEREES team that included Juma Kent, David Maina, Kennedy Banda, Erick Omondi, Coach Goro and some experienced coaches in the Premier League. This particular game against the referees turned out to being the ‘main thrill’ of the night, even though there was the real All-Star game which had KBF’s Premier League’s best players pitted against each other in a East-West version of the more established NBA league in the US. Before all this had other curtain-raiser activities which included the shooting, dances and other forms of entertainment to keep the crowd on its feet on a chilly Friday evening. Strictly speaking though, if the numbers from the event are anything to go by, KBF is finally finding its feet on a situation that had seen die-hard basketball fans seek alternative forms of entertainment. Filling in a gymnasium on a typical weekend has been a real struggle for the basketball officials. This season, though after consulting with entertainment specialists Code Red DJs who’s business face is one Allan Muigai (aka DJ Stylez), along with Protel Entertainment as well as Sports Stadia which manages the Nyayo National Stadium; the Friday fixtures have started changing the face of the game. Initially the games had major clubs such as Co-op Bank, KCB Lions, Ulinzi Warriors among the top basketball sides playing amongst themselves. Then in June the And1 detour into Nairobi-Kenya (thanks to Coca-Cola Kenya and GM Kenya), the spark that needed to light the game again happened and this has worked to the organisers’ advantage. Jumping into the bandwagon, media new-kid-on-the-block, One FM also saw an opportunity to appeal to its target market. Friday’s second game played in two halves ended in favor of the Referees who won 30-28 leading a close 17-16 and 13-12 in both. The game did not end without drama as expected. Big Tedd went around celebrating a basket that he had buried for close to a minute sending the crowd into an uproar while ‘Misee Jalang’o Mwenyewe’ kept the crowd on its toes constantly chasing after the ball from the opponents and making calls for passes like his team mates were not seeing him in the court. Their opponents had their share of brilliance mostly from David ‘Maish’ Maina who was outstanding during the entire game. Maina, a former player at KPA, and currently the head coach of the USIU Tigers tore his opponents with passes and shots that settled the game which had threatened to extend to overtime. Jalang’o and Big Tedd contributed two points each to their loss while Victor Okello bagged 8 points for the Referees. Earlier the Ladies East Side that was packed with stars like Shani Silalei and Irene Makori thrashed the West Side 68 -80. They won all but the first quarter at 13-13, 21-20, 19-6 and 14-8. Irene Makori netted 9 points for the winners. The final game that pitted the men lacked the sparks the fans expected to see from it. The West side boasting of Tiberius Menya and Dan Okwiri narrowly beat the East Side led by David Ogolla and Ligare Griffins 88-87 to carry home the winners’ trophy while the MVP award went to Arou Ramadhan Chan of the West side. For a Nairobi crowd which will almost always fall for the latest hype, the Friday Basketball games are slowly becoming alternative form of entertainment. It is a step in the right direction though not all is done. Just not yet…

Our views from the Friday games have our points as follows;

  • Crowd involvement – a quick look at the crowd shows most of them are newly converted basketball fans. This is the reason most left after the curtain-raiser game of CELEBRITIES v/s REFEREES. It is also the reason most of those left couldn’t identify with the real basketball players once they came out to play. Introduce the players, hype and domesticate the crowd to know their true basketball heroes. Remember how the crowd could identify with And1 stars?
  • Time – this has to be managed better if you are to keep the fans at the gym till whatever time you may need for them to leave. Spread the entertainment bits; keep reminding fans what is coming up and the main highlight of the evening. The main game of the night starting at 2300hours??? Most people at the Nyayo gym were groping in the dark of what’s next. The celebrities even left after their game (guess they still had to run to other engagements to earn their $$$ maybe…). Same thing to the KBF officials, sad!
  • Decor/Ambience – though much of this lies with the Sports Stadia Management Board, the Nyayo Basketball gym is in need of a fresh coat of paint and warmer, striking colours. It may also need some refurbishment for its cushioned walls, rims and the lighting. The ambience of a sporting event makes a whole difference if you’re hoping to wow a crowd of such proportions. It will also add more appeal to media houses that need more colour to their sports editorial stories.
  • Media – some of the media houses either avoided the whole event for reasons best known to them or they feigned commitment as has been the story with most Kenyan media houses with regards to sports. Until SuperSport or some other international media house starts featuring the games, they’re still relegated to some weekly magazine programme which edits it so much it ends up being a speck of no use. Media houses in Kenya have a peculiar sports editorial policy so you might need to work harder to entice them there.
  • Premier League pitch – as is happening with the Kenyan football scene, you need to get the clubs to have their own distinct identity. Either consult branding experts or the respective team managers to get teams to have a followership of their own. Except for the die-hard fans, most of the fans in that gym can’t distinguish which team or who Ulinzi Warriors, Tobias Onyango or Ancette Wafula or Lomboritz are.
  • Consistency – the performance, games and style of play from the main teams needs to be at a better level. You cannot build such hype about the game, show off the skills on individual skits about dribbling, dunking or shooting then give me a below-par game. It will serve no purpose at all in the efforts of getting back that ardent basketball or sports fan.
  • Corporate sponsorship– it is hard pitching to Kenyan corporate for sports events. Keep hope alive and you could see a change in attitude. A change in attitude too is needed at the top of KBF for officials to see the commercial sense of the game. We’ve sung this tune for too long. Even with its challenges football is now millions of shillings ahead of you…Anyway you can link the Friday games with the ongoing Spriteball talent search by next month?

Address these challenges are you’re on to a good thing. Mark your calendars people, every First Friday of the Month, make a date with Kenya’s basketball fraternity at the Nyayo National Stadium Basketball Gymnasium! Check some earlier posts on the Friday Basketball Games by KenyaHoops, MichezoAfrika and KenyaBuzz . Additional Reporting by Noel Robert

And1 Kenya Tour – Did it Live Up to the Hype?

Saturday 11th June and some of us sporting buffs in the country had one too many sporting events to attend but one that stood out for us was the and1 SpriteBall Kenya Tour which was ostensibly sponsored by Coca-Cola’s Sprite brand. Read on for a quick recount of events happening on the day;
a) Ticketing and Gate Management – an online process through was activated a few days to the event to enable advance booking to the event. It was a smart move but that’s where it ends. On arrival at the venue, no communication was made on how one was to confirm having made this advance booking. Being tossed around and having a bit of a miff with security personnel who were equally irritating made for poor gate management. No clear cut distinction too was made on the VIP booking (costing KShs.500) or regular ones (at KShs.200).

b) Security – Given that Kenya Basketball Federation Premier League games were still on, though scheduled for early starts; the organisers had to wait till 4.30p.m. to secure the venue ( managed by Sports Stadia Management Board AND NOT KBF as most people think…). There was a bomb sweep ( yeah we had Americans in the building) and this caused more inconveniences to sporting fans who had streamed in as early as 12 noon. Luckily the crowd was well-mannered and no scenes of commotion was seen thus far. There were 2 courts, the handball court (outdoor) which had screens and a basketball hoop which later served as the scene for the BlakeGriffin – Dunk-over-a-Car (The Chevrolet was donated by GM).
Here’s the Dunk thanks to *mastabonk;

The other court was the Nyayo Gym proper (indoor) where the exhibition game between and1 players and Kenya-Select and much of the action was to take place.
However on allowing the crowd into the courts, there were serious security lapses. First the crowd was too big for the Nyayo Gym allowing people to sit right next to the playing court a few inches off. There were people hanging around the back of each hoop and this was also of concern given the players’ getting their game on and the adrenalin kicking as the game went on. No serious injuries occurred (thankfully).
This easy access of the crowd though meant security personnel had problems trying to control the fans once the action started. Over-excited fans, groupies and some wannabe-photographers were all over the court each time a player from either and1 or Kenya select made a great play. At half-time it took more than 10 min to clear the court. By the end of the game when one of the Kenya-Select point guards outplayed an and1 guard, the crowd went berserk and even by the final buzzer fans were either throwing empty plastic soda bottles or running into the court like headless chicken.

c) Venue– as earlier reported, the venue(s) for the games were the handball and basketball courts both of which are managed by the SSMB. With the clouds hanging heavily before the start of the games, most of the people in the crowd didn’t take much chances and ended up in the Gym.
The lighting was good save for the fact that there were no effects thus making some boring ambience. 2 large screens had been positioned opposite each other; at the VIP side and directly opposite it. This was showing the action outside (at the handball court) and also running promotional ads for the DJ Unit and Sprite’s too.
The ancient scoreboard that has been at the Gym since 1987 was our source of information as the game progressed but since KBF or SSMB have never found it urgent to bring it down and modernise the whole thing, most people were agonised trying to see the scores.( The timer on the board usually has a problem differentiating between 3 & 8 min and this had the game’s MC in problems each time the clock was running out).
More cause for embarrassment was to come once the skies opened up and the rains pounded Nairobi, the roof at Nyayo Gym started leaking and the game had to be stopped as the MC saved the situation placing his treasured white towel on the court. 

d) Sponsors Overload – it was a great job for Coca-Cola through Sprite to agree to sponsor the event. In fact the original and1live Tour was not even supposed to head to East Africa but guess some strings were pulled and we got our share of the action. With every ticket purchase came 2 free half-litre sodas or 2 Dasani water 300 ml bottles, fair enough! But these bottles turned out to be anathema once the crowd got excited. Enough litter made its way onto the court causing much eyesore to the game.
There were banners too pronouncing the sponsor’s cause , all good but methinks its time too that Kenyan companies started investing in digital platforms for the ads. More screens and the lighting in the court would have longer lasting impression than the now usual and ugly banners which are overdone.
We’re also wondering if this association with the Kenyan basketball game will continue or shall it be a once-hot-now-cold relationship with KBF? True there is lots of ground to be covered by the authorities but you can cut them some slack for now…

e) And1 v/s Kenya Select :- once the exhibition game started, the and1 team seemed to be taking off with the game only for the Kenyan players to start settling in and making impressive plays and almost answering their critics with 3-pointers and alley-ups just like the best of them. The only problem is that much of the game now turned to more of showmanship and no better structured moves. Not that much of the crowd cared anyway, some of us love a more competitive game even if its streetball.
Without a doubt, Kenyans can make the cut for some of the best teams but we do not have the structures to nurture this talent and channel it to the more lucrative leagues in Europe and America. One of the and1 players was originally from Uganda and we also know of Hasheem Thabeet playing in the NBA, how come Kenya can’t afford a player even in the college basketball teams? Over to you KBF!

Well, when all is said and done, it was a nice break from the lacklustre games that occasion the KBF Premier League. KBF should take up this chance and spice up things for fans to come back week-on-week. Some fan was heard saying that if KBF officials cannot handle the game then they should leave it to such organisers and corporate firms to make it happen. It is true that KBF has not made any commercial sense to most corporate firms, well this can be a start.
(Sports) event organisers also take note, NEVER ask a crowd to show up at a certain time only for your arrangements NOT to be up and running. Luck was on your side that this was a manageable crowd and there were no reported scenes of violence or otherwise. Other sporting disciplines will not be so patient. Also if you have to host a foreign team, all those security checks can be done well in advance and you shall save us all the hussle.

{Thanks for Twitpics to @kenyanpoet & @itsbuddhablaze, we shall be posting the images up soon}

NBA Playoffs ended early this morning or late evening depending on which time-zone you live in. Dallas Mavericks ended up scorching Miami Heat 4-2 in a best of 7 series and denying the fancied Big 3 of Lebron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh their first ever championship rings. However this accorded Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and Peta Stojakovic their first rings each of these long-time playing stars.

Sprite Slam Tour : Basketball in Kenya at Crossroads

After milking the best attention (and revenues of course), Coca-Cola Kenya shall once again engage in another of their brands this time taking a sport which is not enjoying the best of times – Basketball.

While its peers in football, rugby and athletics seem to be attracting monies and the cherry chips of the corporate world, basketball has become a pedestrian sport at its best. A visit to the games at the Nyayo Gymnasium (which has since been closed to pave way for African Athletics Championships happening July 28-August 1, why they need to close the gym you wonder !) ends up being a real ‘labour of love’.

The flavour of the game seen in other leagues such as would compare with the Angolan or West African ones or semi-professional European or basketball premiere league of the NBA has since been lost. Even the annual 3-on-3 tournaments which used to attract sizeable crowds have since disappeared as the interested parties sought solace in other sports.
From our insider on the game, there are some developments in the works which  may curtail this but till then, Coca-Cola shall be holding forte with its 2nd consecutive tournament in the SpriteSlam tournament. The first round shall be at the Jomo Kenyatta Grounds in Kisumu 31st July-1st August with the final leg culminating in a basketball tournament at the Railways Grounds on Haile Selassie Avenue in Nairobi.

Let’s hope there shall be synergies drawn by both Kenya Basketball Federation and its corporate sponsors this one being Sprite – Coca-Cola Kenya.  
(Image courtesy of Nation Media Group.

Basketball Briefs:

After creating a buzz with his free agency, Lebron James fell for Miami and its beautiful weather (maybe) deciding to play for the Heat in the NBA. While it seems like the best thing for the Miami franchise, I’m reminded of the fact that most of the greats from MJ, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and most of the legends defied their commercial interests to stick with one team(franchise) for the longest time. Not being a naysayer but I don’t see King James earning any championship ring soon. See some insights on his move here.

Basketball: New Format for Play-offs

The Kenya Basketball Federation has decided to introduce a new format for the play-offs starting this season. The play-offs usually played in November as the season closes, will entertain 8 teams from a previous 4. This may be good to make it more competitive but I still stick to my guns saying we need more than piecemeal changes to make our players world-class acts.
Look at some of Africa’s strong teams in Basketball, such as Nigeria, Angola, Congo et al; these guys have a competitive league which ensure they can churn out talent to play college basketball and club too in America and Europe respectively. The other day in the Press we read about the first Tanzanian in the NBA, one Hasheem Thabeet.He made it through getting scholarship playing at the University of Connecticut after being spotted in a local basketball tournament-in Kenya if I must say…
I can’t repeat what I have time and again said in this blog, we have administrators managing the game right now (and they are not doing a very good job at it, if reports from some of the clubs is anything to go by) but rather a mix of admin people and individuals with commercial expertise.
We have for long trained young men and women from South Sudan and the region too but we have not made any impact yet at national and international level. Please act on this KBF and let not those peeves you have been having not relegate our game into the bins but instead take it to the next level.