Not to pile on the pressure on the sturdy shoulders of Ghana’s latest hope to shine the light on basketball, but Amida Brimah’s success or otherwise in the NBA has immense implications on what happens in the interim and what is to come in the near future beyond him.
As the second ever Ghana born player to play in the NBA, the novelty of his name in the grand Ghanaian sports circles which is unsurprisingly dominated by famous footballers, speaks true to what he still has to overcome even after scaling multiple hurdles to get on the roster of a team in the world’s richest and most popular basketball league.
For the Ghanaian sports fan, the intricacies of basketball are quite alien; mix Amida’s long winding journey from the University of Connecticut through a development league to the NBA then you have a problem with the populace trying to keep up. In summary, Brimah went undrafted out of University, played two years in the NBA Gatorade League with a brief stop at Red Star Belgrade, suffered a torn ACL before playing another season in the Gatorade League with another team then finally getting to play in the NBA.
The nature of the contracts he has worked with rightly reflects his unorthodox journey to the league; swinging from partially guaranteed contracts to Exhibit 10 deals and his present two way deal just about sums it up. With four league appearances for Indiana Pacers to his credit, the next step obviously is to secure a long term deal and play extensive minutes in the league.
For starters, Coach Pacers Coach Nate Bjorkgren needs to play the 6 foot 10 inch defender a whole lot more when the chance arrives. In a recent loss to Washington Wizards, Brimah was inactive and got to look on as Wizards big men took turns to bang away beneath the basket against Domantas Sabonis for 43 minutes.
Playing 6 foot 7 inch players at the Power Forward position didn’t help either which made Amida’s absence a head scratcher. Hopefully Bjorkgren sees the light and aids Brimah’s quest for a longer stay in the NBA possible since the benefits that come with it are refreshing but hard to quantify.
In a nation that is saturated with football first media outlets, having an athlete performing well in the NBA serves as an incentive to break from the “old” or “normal” way of doing things. Since signing with the Pacers and registering six points, three rebounds and two blocks in nine minutes against Portland Trailblazers, basketball has sneakily found its way to the story boards of many a radio or television station or online portal.
Having the media talk about basketball serves the purpose of educating the population about the sport including basic rules, basic statistics and familiarity with the top performers beyond just a handful of players as it exists in football.
The average Ghanaian child above four years who is interested in football understands what a throw in is and the purpose red cards and yellow cards serve in a football game. Should Brimah’s activity pick up, Journalists are inevitably going to be consistent spilling out basketball jargons so much, the Ghanaian populace gets acquainted.
Familiarity is an important issue needed to bring (Ghana) people along to a fairly new sports front like basketball. Ghanaians connect with football because they see our top players play against the best in the world almost daily and go through the emotions with them from afar. The popularity of soccer in the US is on the rise largely thanks to an influx of talented players showcasing their skills in the best leagues with top teams.
Chelsea Winger Christian Pulisic and Juventus Central Midfielder Weston McKinnie are leading the pack turning American heads towards the world’s most popular sport. With Amida playing often on the biggest basketball stage at least at the club level, more Ghanaians are likely to be drawn to the league and ultimately the sport.
Perhaps the most important reason why Brimah needs to succeed is the potential legacy he leaves behind for the future generation of Ghanaian basketball players and growth of the sport in the country. Largely due to the influence of Luc Richard Mbah Moute, Cameroon has Joel Embiid and Pascal Siakam in the NBA with many in the junior ranks.
The pair’s journey from the Central African nation to the NBA through US High School and College has connections to the multi year NBA veteran who played for Milwaukee Bucks, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers. It isn’t surprising Nigerian born players and those of direct descent from Nigeria have flooded the NBA since NBA Hall of Fame inductee Hakeem Olajuwon starred for the Rockets in the 1990’s.
Ben Bentil opened the door when he became the first Ghana born player to play in the NBA following his brief stint with Dallas Mavericks and Amida has a big chance to build on that for reasons that go way beyond his NBA timeline.