The chairman of the 2019 NBA champions was “misinformed,” according to the vice-president of the Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF), when he accused the body of stealing the nation’s young of basketball and ripping the sport apart.
Following the Nigerian government’s decision in May to withdraw from international basketball for two years, Mali will take their position at the tournament in Australia later this year.
Masai Ujiri, president of the Toronto Raptors, shared his views in an open letter published days after Nigeria’s absence from the Women’s Basketball World Cup was announced.
“If Masai had all the facts, he would not make such conclusions,” Ogunade told BBC Sport Africa. “I communicate regularly with Masai, it is possible he has been misinformed. Mr Ujiri is entitled to his opinion.”
In response, the ministry has said that the decision to pull out of international basketball came from Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari himself.
“The Minister and his co-travellers in the Ministry [of Sports] are the ones manufacturing the crisis.”
In his letter of 5 June, Nigerian-Canadian Ujiri had stated that “enough is enough”.
“From the Ministry of Sports to the Nigerian Basketball Federation (NBBF), the leaders of the basketball ecosystem in Nigeria continue to rob our youth of their present and future while tearing the entire basketball community apart – this needs to stop,” he wrote.
“This (withdrawal) is a symptom of an issue that has permeated the sports ecosystem for years. “When leaders put self interest over national interest, the innocent suffer. It’s time for them to step aside, for the good of the game, the nation, and the athletes.”
Withdrawal of Nigeria from global basketball is ‘heart-wrenching’
When asked to respond to the NBBF’s claim that the sports ministry was to blame, a special adviser to the Minister of Sports Sunday Dare said the decision about withdrawing ultimately lay with President Buhari. “The Minister did not give an instruction on his own,” Toyin Ibitoye said.
“The instruction is from the President and facts were presented before that decision was taken.” Basketball’s world governing body Fiba has already pointed out that the impact of the withdrawal will last even longer than the initial two years.
Players from D’Tigress, the women’s national side, have been locked in a dispute with the NBBF and sports ministry over the non-payment of bonuses and organisational issues encountered during the Olympics Games in Japan. The issue also affected the salary of head coach Otis Hughley.
Ujiri claimed that Nigeria is stuck in a damaging cycle, failing to invest properly to allow its sides to perform on the international stage. Nigeria ‘has to be nationalistic’ in approach
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