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Nash spreading the word about basketball

Saturday, June 19, 2010
Jun 19

Posted by Jemele Hill

JOHANNESBURG -- Even in soccer-mad South Africa, the NBA has found a presence.

Two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash, who was born in Johannesburg, dropped by Discovery Park to play soccer with Patrick Vieira, formerly of the French national team, and Lucas Radebe, who used to play for the South Africa.

It wasn't just a coincidence, though. Nash was joined by the Milwaukee Bucks' Luc Mbah a Moute and Obinna Ekezie, the former Maryland star who spent a few years in the NBA before playing overseas, as part of the NBA's campaign to extend its influence in Africa.

The NBA opened an office in Johannesburg this spring to help its outreach. The NBA and soccer stars played both hoops and soccer with kids from the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund.

Nash, an avid soccer fan, has been a major presence at this year's World Cup -- but not as just a fan. Nash has been doing some colorful reporting for CBS Sports. In fact, here's Nash interviewing a fan after the United States' 2-2 tie with Slovenia.

Nash's parents are British, but he grew up in Canada. Although he didn't sound very hopeful about England's chances in the World Cup, he did offer insight into whether basketball can be as big in Africa as soccer.

"I think the game of basketball could be huge in Africa," Nash said. "What's important is that it's an easy game to play. If you put up a hoop, a kid can play with his ball, which is very similar to soccer. I think that's what makes them the two top sports in the world, because it's easy and accessible."

Mbah a Moute is from Cameroon, and Ekezie is a Nigerian. Like Nash, Mbah a Moute has seen Africa take a huge liking to basketball.

"It's interesting because you see so many more people playing basketball," he said. "It's becoming the No. 2 sport in Africa. It's soccer, then basketball, and then every other sport. There's just a lot more interest."

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