2015 NBA Champion, Festus Ezeli and two-time NBA all-star Victor Oladipo, headlined the first virtual Power Forward huddle where they shared their success stories in the game of basketball at the NBA.
The event, streamed live on NBA Africa You Tube and hosted by TV and radio host Jimmie Akinsola, celebrated seven years of the Power Forward program for youth from ages 14 and under as well as coaches from 30 schools in Abuja.
Power Forward, a youth development initiative launched in 2013 by the ExxonMobil Foundation, the NBA and Africare, uses basketball to teach health literacy, including malaria prevention and personal hygiene, and life skills, such as leadership, respect and responsibility, to students in secondary schools in Abuja.
Ezeli and Oladipo spoke about the role basketball played in their lives, the values of the game and credited their Nigerian upbringing for the successes on and off the court.
The one-hour show, celebrating the program’s impact in Abuja, also featured representatives of the program partners – ExxonMobil Director of Community Investment and Strategy, Jim Jones; NBA Africa CEO, Victor Williams; and Africare President and CEO, Robert Mallett; – as well as testimonials from Power Forward students. The organizers also thanked FCT Abuja Secondary Education Board and Nigerian Basketball Federation for their support of the initiative.
Festus Ezeli recalled his visit to Nigeria last year, after a decade and a half abroad, when he also took part in the sixth Power Forward Finals at the National Stadium in Abuja.
“I had been gone for 15 years. I left my home, I left my family, it was just me when I came to America. And coming back after all this time, a lot of inches taller, it was a very emotional time. You know it’s always going to be home. Nigeria is always home. Granted that America is my home now, but when I went back, it was this feeling like: man, I’m home.
“These are my people, and seeing my family and everybody, it kind of reminded me of my purpose. When I left Nigeria I said I was not going to come back unless I have something to contribute, until I accomplished something.