Nigeria has left the world stunned after its senior national men’s basketball team – D’Tigers – stunned their US counterparts in a first warm-up game ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, becoming the first team from Africa to achieve the feat of beating the Americans.
1st News reports that D’Tigers beat the US team 90-87 in a keenly-contested and exciting encounter.
In achieving this feat, Nigeria, the 22nd-ranked nation by FIBA beat the No. 1-ranked team and three-time reigning Olympic gold medallists. The development has ignited shockwaves in sporting circles. 1st News reports that the feat by the unfancied team from Nigeria is currently the top trending topic on Twitter and other social media platforms.
Furthermore, the victory by the Nigerian side has shattered any sense of invincibility for the star-studded Americans heading into the Tokyo Olympics.
Nigeria fielded a team made up of little-known NBA players on the night. On the other hand, the Americans could call on a group filled with NBA All-stars and superstar performers.
However, Nigeria showed that D’Tigers ought to be taken seriously at this year’s Olympics.
Speaking to the US media after the shock victory, D’Tigers’ Gabe Nnamdi expressed delight.
“We just wanted to compete. We know what USA Basketball means around the world and what they’ve stood for for so long.”
The US had lost 11 games before Saturday in major international plays, mainly in the Olympics and World Cups, mostly; since NBA players began filling the American rosters with the first Dream Team in 1992.
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None of those losses came against a team from Africa.
US coach, Gregg Popovich, heaped praises on Nigeria, hailing their fitness and physicality.
“I thought that the Nigerian team played very physically, did a great job in that regard and knocked down a lot of 3s. Give them credit,” he said.
Nnamdi led the scoring for Nigeria with 21 points. Caleb Agada scored 17 points. Ike Nwamu added 13 and Nigeria outscored the US 60-30 from three-point range.
Kevin Durant, who had never before played in a loss for USA Basketball in 39 senior international games, had 17 points. Jayson Tatum added 15, Damian Lillard had 14 and Bam Adebayo 11.
The Americans had gone 39-0 in their last three Olympic seasons — including pre-Olympic exhibitions — on their way to gold medals and had been 54-2 in major exhibitions since NBA players began playing for USA Basketball in 1992.
Also, they had beaten Nigeria by a combined 127 points in their last two meetings; one at the 2012 London Games, the other a warm-up for the 2016 Rio Games.
Nigeria lost to the US at the 2012 Olympics by 83 points. Again, they lost to the Americans again four years later in an exhibition, that time by 44 points.
But the Nigerians delivered a shocker this time, leaving the Americans stunned as they left the court.
Coach of D’Tigers, Mike Brown, however, remained modest in victory.
“At the end of the day, it doesn’t mean much in the standings as far as where we’re trying to get to. But it’s a good win for us.
‘‘I don’t think any African team has been able to beat USA Basketball in an exhibition game or a real game. … We’re trying to get a little bit of momentum for Nigeria and for the continent of Africa.”
“Nigeria’s come a long way with their basketball,” USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said.
Reports from the match indicated that the US led 43-41 at the half; then pushed the lead out to 52-43 early in the third. But D’Tigers connected on 3s on their next three possessions to tie the game; before rallying in the fourth quarter with two enormous late shots by Miye Oni sealing the famous victory.
D’Tigers play Australia in the next warm-up game on Monday while the US take on Australia.