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What Ime Udoka’s appointment means for the Celtics and Nigeria

Ime Udoka’s appointment as the new head coach of the Boston Celtics signifies another milestone for Nigeria in the NBA. The 43-year old has made history by becoming the first-ever Nigerian head coach in NBA history.

He replaces the newly-promoted Brad Stevens and has the task of helping the under-achieving Celtics reach their full potential. This groundbreaking move signifies the latest chapter in the relationship between the NBA and the West African country.

Congrats to our very own Ime Udoka. The first Nigerian head coach in NBA History! The Celtics got a good one! Green and white like always. 🇳🇬 — D’Tigers | Nigeria Basketball (@NigeriaBasket) June 23, 2021

Nigeria and the NBA

Both entities have been intertwined for years. One of the greatest NBA players of all time, Hakeem Olajuwon is Nigerian.

Two-time MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of at least 27 active players in the NBA who are either Nigerian or of Nigerian descent, eight of which were drafted last year.

And the relationship goes both ways as well, basketball has been a welcome common ground. The current head coach of Nigeria’s national basketball team is Mike Brown, an American and former NBA coach of the year.

Head Coach of D'Tigers, Mike Brown has officially commenced preparation for the 2020 Olympic Games with the invitation of 49 players as camp opens in California, USA. #NBBF (@nbbfonline) June 22, 2021

Ime Udoka becoming the new coach of the Boston Celtics takes that relationship to the next level.

In a league where black coaches are a minority, this appointment is huge!!!

A Nigerian is in charge of not just any NBA team but 17-time champions Boston Celtics shatters several ceilings.

Ime Udoka‘s Nigerian heritage

Born and bred in Portland, Oregon, there’s no denying Ime Udoka’s American side but his Nigerian heritage goes beyond his father. Both Ime and his sister, Mfon Udoka, represented and captained the male and female national teams of Nigeria respectively.

African Basketball Legends! – Mfon Udoka (NGR/WNBA) she won Gold in 2003 African Games, Gold and MVP Afrobasket 2005,Played Olympic Games 2004 and FIBAWWC 06 Astou Traoré(Sen) with Team Senegal she won gold in african games 2007 & 2011, won Afrobasket 2005 & played FIBAWWC 06,10 — Belle Fiba (@belle_fiba) March 25, 2020

And he has always been proud to associate with Nigeria which would help boost the image of the sport in the country. As a result, the average basketball fan in Nigeria has one more person to look up to in the NBA.

Nigerian players in the NBA can have valid dreams of going into management at the end of their playing careers.

What’s in it for Boston?

Apart from being guaranteed a wave of Nigerian fans, the Boston Celtics have more to gain from appointing Ime Udoka. They’re getting a head coach with nearly a decade’s worth of NBA experience as an assistant coach on multiple teams.

He was also on the coaching staff for team USA where he worked with Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown.

Ime Udoka reportedly already has a strong relationship with Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, and Marcus Smart from his time coaching them with Team USA. It feels like the Celtics gave their star players a voice when it comes to this hire. — Alex Barth (@RealAlexBarth) June 23, 2021

He must have made a good impression on the Celtics’ superstars. They both, along with Marcus Smart, reportedly endorsed Udoka’s appointment and his league-wide good reputation could help the Celtics with recruitment.

Congrats, Celtics Nation, on hiring Ime Udoka. I have long believed he has all the right traits to become a great head coach. I was amazed no one hired him all those years he was Pop's lead assistant. Players love/respect him. Commanding presence. Great fit for these Celts. — Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) June 23, 2021

They just got rid of Kemba Walker‘s massive contract and will likely be looking for a suitable third piece. Subsequently, Udoka and Stevens will work together to bring in that third player to complement Tatum and Brown.

In conclusion, there’s no question that the Boston Celtics are on the brink of something special. They’ve flirted with greatness the last few years, but something was missing. Now, with the recent changes on and off the court, the team appears to be on the verge of taking the next step.

It’s still only his first head coach gig so it might not all click at once, so let’s not get carried away. He will need some patience and no interference from the front office to execute his ideas.

But, once it does click, Udoka could be just what the Boston Celtics need to finally reach the next level.

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