It was a historic night in the 2020 NBA Draft, as a record eight players of Nigerian heritage – with two born in the country – were drafted into the league with two top ten picks and six picks in the first round.
The draws, held in the early hours of Thursday, saw Isaac Okoro who was born in the USA to Nigerian parents become the highest drafted player with Nigerian roots since Michael Olowokandi was drafted number one overall by the LA Clippers in 1998.
The 19-year-old Small Forward from Auburn was selected number five overall by the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Onyeka Okongwu was selected with the number six pick by the Atlanta Hawks, a moment which triggered deep emotions as the 20-year-old paid tribute to his older brother, Nnamdi, who died after a skateboarding accident in 2014.
Precious Achiuwa who was born in Nigeria but moved to the USA as a teenager was taken by the Miami Heat with the number twenty pick.
An excited Pat Riley who heads basketball operations at the Heat said about selecting Achiuwa: “We are very excited to have him. We think he fits in perfectly… I’m excited that at 20 we were able to find a player who is that good and who has that kind of quality.”
The 21-year-old Power Forward joins countryman and D’Tigers player Gabe Vincent as well as Bam Adebayo, Andre Iguodala and Kezie Okpala who are of Nigerian descent at the Heat which reached the NBA finals last season.
Piano-playing 19-year-old Centre Zeke Nnaji who was decked out in Nigerian attire and whose father Apham, was born in Nigeria was drafted with the number 22 pick by Denver Nuggets.
The Utah Jazz took Udoka Azubuike who was born in Nigeria at number 27 and Desmond Bane whose father Etieno Ekiko was born in Nigeria, rounded off the first round picks as he was selected 30th overall by the Boston Celtics who then traded him to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Daniel Oturu who parents emigrated to the United States in 1990 was selected by the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second round at number 33.
The 21-year-old Power Forward whose father Francis played table tennis for Nigeria joins fellow American-born Nigerian Josh Okogie who plays for the D’Tigers at the Timberwolves.
Rounding off the historic draft night for Nigeria was D’Tigers player Jordan Nwora who was drafted with the 45th pick by the Milwaukee Bucks.
The 22-year-old forward whose father Alex coaches D’Tigers, is a gifted scorer and holds the single game scoring record for the Nigerian national team with 36 points scored against Mali during the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup qualifiers.
He won’t be the only player with Nigerian heritage at the Bucks as he joins two-time reigning league MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo at Milwaukee.