Nigeria’s basketball team, D’Tigers, are already putting up surprises at the exhibition games ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
D’Tigers beat the United States 90–87 during an exhibition game in Las Vegas on 10 July.
The historic victory was largely not expected. Probably, even among Nigerian fans.
The win set a continental record as it is the first time an African team will beat the US men’s basketball team.
On July 12, the team also smashed Argentina 94-71 at the Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas. The USA is the FIBA ranked No.1 team, while the Argentine are the 4th in the sport.
This is a feat that has been recorded by a team which has only won two games in the two Olympics it has featured.
D’Tigers made their Olympic debut under coach Ayodele Bakare in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, but they finished the group play with a 1–4 record. Their lone victory was against Tunisia.
At the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, they finished at the bottom of Group B, winning just one game against Croatia and losing four.
This time around, Coach Mike Brown is leading the team to what appears like a revolution for the Olympic team.
“We just wanted to compete,” Nigeria’s Gabe Nnamdi, who plays for Miami Heat with the name Gabe Vincent said after beating the US men’s Basketball team.
“We know what USA Basketball means around the world and what they’ve stood for for so long,” he added.
The 2021 Tokyo Olympics men’s basketball competition will feature 12 nations which include Japan, Argentina, Australia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, Nigeria, Slovenia, Spain and USA.
The basketball event will begin July 25 to August 7 and there are rising hopes that the basketball team will prove a point in Japan.
D’Tigers Coach, Brown ahead of the US clash said , “We’re not going there just for the experience; the experience is going to be nice. And we’re excited about going there and experiencing everything that Tokyo has to offer us. We have the mindset of going to Tokyo to win.
“We’re not settling, we’re not going to be okay with anything else along the way. And so we’re looking forward to showing, not just people in Nigeria but the people on the continent of Africa, people around the world. There’s a lot of Nigerian talent out there.”
On Monday, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo encouraged Team Nigeria to put in their best, making special mention of the historic victory against USA made by the men’s basketball team.
The VP said, “And for anyone who thinks we are joking, maybe they haven’t seen our exhibition basketball game on Saturday with the USA team, especially that amazing block by Precious Achiuwa against KD (Kevin Durant) who is probably the best player in the NBA right now. So, Precious, you are the real MVP.”
“When the Games begin on July 23, you will, as Team Nigeria, be joining other athletes from over 210 countries and territories of the world in the biggest and the most spectacular sporting event on the planet – the Olympic Games.
“Every one of you participating in the games is opening a page in history for yourself, your families, your community and the nation. Your performance at the games will inscribe your names in national and world sporting history; you carry the hopes and aspirations of millions as you compete in Tokyo.”