August 30, 2013
After visiting South Africa in 2011, New Orleans Pelicans head coach Monty Williams was curious to see how much progress the nation has made two years later. Williams is getting a first-hand look this week in the capital city of Johannesburg, as part of the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders contingent. The group also features seven active NBA players and NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver.
“Having come here (before), I’ve seen this nation grow and see young people who look better and better every time you come,” Williams said of his first-day reaction to visiting this time. “Johannesburg is starting to look like a thriving metropolis. They have a ways to go, but they’ll tell you that they’ve come a long way.”
Williams’ 2011 visit featured a trip to the city’s Apartheid Museum, which details the racial discrimination and state-sanctioned segregation in the nation during the 20th century. The museum made a long-lasting impression on Williams.
“The first time I came here I was impacted by the Apartheid Museum and the story of not only of Nelson Mandela’s plight, but also of the ability of these people to forgive all of the atrocities that happened here in South Africa,” Williams said. “Even though this is a basketball trip, I can’t help but think about what went on in my lifetime, in a country that was (only) 15 hours away, as far as flying here. From that standpoint, your heart goes out to this nation.”
The 11th annual Basketball Without Borders trip to Africa began Thursday and features a basketball camp for 60 young African players that includes a life-skills seminar. The group is also working with the local Special Olympics, visiting orphanages and interacting with families in need. NBA players Luol Deng, Serge Ibaka, Thabo Sefolosha, Bismack Biyombo, Al Horford, Kyrie Irving and Jerry Bayless are also among the participants.
“These people are amazing – the amount of work they put in is unreal,” Williams said of the organizers of the Basketball Without Borders program. “I think it’s why the NBA is having a global impact that’s like no other sport in the world.”