One of the most glaring features of the 2012 Olympic Games coming to climax tomorrow in London, United Kingdom was the bruising of Team Nigeria’s basketball squad. But the Nigerians didn’t really let go.D’Tigers as they are proudly called were unbowed.
Afterall, three weeks to the Olympics not even the D’Tigers themselves or anyone else believed that Nigeria’s green-white-green flag will be hoisted at the basketball arena of the London Games, but with a roster patched together at the last minute, they toppled established international teams — Lithuania, Greece and the Dominican Republic to book their ticket to the quadrennial world sporting fiesta. Therefore it is not an exaggeration to say Coach Ayodele Bakare-tutored squad inspired the most populous black nation.
At the Olympics proper, the team survived early scare from fellow African team, Tunisia, beat their North African rival 60-54 to kick start their Olympic Games campaign on a winning note and became the first African team to win a match in Olympics basketball event. However, the record breakinglossof 156-73 in any basketball match to USA team shattered the team quest for successful outing in their debut.
Every attempt to put them together and get their campaign back on track met a brick. They also lost to Argentina, 95-79. The signal that sounded the end came on Monday against European nation, France. The Nigerians were unwilling to let go, salvaged some pride by losing narrowly to France in their final game of the Men’s Basketball event by 79-73 points.
D’Tigers trailed by 41-30 points at half-time, but rallied round and even drawing level at 59-59 in the fourth quarter, but the experience of the French team that has NBA and San Antonio Spurs player Tony Parker, came to the fore.
They would have qualified if they had defeated France, and Tunisia did them a favour by winning Lithuania. The D’Tigerswill take solace in the fact that barring injuries,they gave each of their game a go, except for the match against USA,where they were walloped.
D’Tigers unimpressive outing notwithstanding deserve a standing ovation. To their list of creditsis first Olympics appearance, first Olympics victory. On the other, they added something less historic- finished Olympic group play with a 1-4 record, lost to the United States by a whopping 83 points and endured racist chants and a rash of injuries.
Disappointment mixed with pride. “People think that was the goal for us, to get here,” forward Derrick Obasohan said. “It wasn’t. Coach said we were the first African team to win an Olympic game. We earned respect.”
With much determination and hype as surprised underdogs in the basketball event of London 2012 Olympics, Nigeria’s D’Tigers fought a good fight but lost out of the competition on Monday after a four straight loss to Lithuania, USA, Argentina and France with sole consoled of hard fight earned 60-56 victory over fellow African.
An Olympic rookie, with 10 players who played college ball in the U.S., Nigerians didn’t expect anything better than this from their team. Diogu, who was born in Buffalo, N.Y., after his parents emigrated from Africa, has played for eight NBA teams and Al-Farouq, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2010 draft, was traded last year by the Los Angeles Clippers to New Orleans in the deal for U.S. guard Chris Paul.
Also, injuries that plagued the team were their greatest undoing. Then talk about the limited time they spent together, come the African championships next summer, much more could be accomplished.
Recently, the team has enjoyed success due to an orchestrated recruitment of American college and professional players of Nigerian descent. A team dominated by Nigerian-Americans has shown that the future of Nigeria in slamming and donkey game is bright.